England fans gather ahead of their Euro 2016 soccer championship game in Marseille, France, on June 10. (Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters)

Euro 2016, the once-every-four-years soccer tournament between Europe's top national teams, kicks off in Paris today. Ahead of the build-up to the games, there were plenty of security concerns, from the looming specter of Islamist violence to threats of far-right, ultra-nationalist terrorism.

So far, though, the main disturbance has come from a different source: English fans.

On Thursday evening, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of England supporters massed in the southern port city of Marseille, the site of their team's first game of the month-long tournament. And some did what they have a reputation for doing: drinking a lot, singing offensive songs and getting into fights.


England fans put up a flag in downtown Marseille, France, on Friday. (Darko Bandic/AP)

One English fan and a local were arrested by authorities; another Englishman was rushed to a French hospital with a serious head wound after clashes erupted with locals, according to the BBC.

The Telegraph quoted eyewitnesses who claimed that some English fans had chanted "ISIS, where are you?" while roaming the city, which is home to a large population of North African descent. ISIS is another name for the Islamic State, the violent extremist organization that still controls territory in Iraq and Syria.

Police had to intervene to halt skirmishes involving British soccer fans and locals in the port city of Marseille overnight on Thursday, just hours before the Euro 2016 championship was to open in France. (Reuters)

Other reports suggested the English supporters were ambushed by local youths in an organized attack.

"We need to keep it in context. There are thousands of England supporters who will come here and have a fantastic time," a British policeman supervising English fans in France told the BBC. "There is a small minority who drink too much and get involved in some anti-social behavior."

In 1998, when France hosted the World Cup, English fans got into running street battles with locals and Tunisian supporters in Marseille. At Euro 2000 in Belgium, nearly 200 English supporters were arrested after a near-riot ahead of a game against Germany. Pubs and city squares were smashed up.

England's traveling support has long been stigmatized for hooliganism, even though authorities in Britain have perhaps done more over the past two decades to stamp out soccer-related violence than their counterparts in other European nations.

Soccer violence is certainly more of a problem now in Eastern Europe than in countries farther west. On Saturday, England kicks off its tournament against Russia. Earlier this week, an organized group of Russian soccer hooligans known as the Spartak Gladiators warned online that they would "obliterate" English fans.

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