Blinded fans warns of Turkey trouble
From the archive, first published Friday 10th Oct 2003.
A diehard England fan who was blinded by a missile thrown by rival fans when England last played in Turkey has warned supporters not to travel to Istanbul.
Mark Raven will miss only his second England game in ten years when he stays at home for tomorrow's Euro 2004 qualifier.
His right eye was cut in half by a coin thrown by a Turkish fan during England's 2-0 win in Izmir in March 1993.
He said: "The Football Association and police don't want England fans to travel and I can see why.
"People need to look at the possibility something nasty could happen. They should stay at home."
Mr Raven, 33, said he had decided to stay away as soon as the groups for the qualifying stages were drawn.
He said: "Ever since the fixtures were announced I knew I wouldn't be going.
"I will be watching it in a pub.
"I got my right eye cut in half by a coin at the match in Izmir.
"I was taken to a training hospital where I underwent surgery but they couldn't save the sight.
"I was in hospital for a week before being flown back to Moorefields eye hospital in London.
"They had trained the surgeons who operated on me and confirmed I had been blinded on impact."
Turkey were given a six-month ban from home games by UEFA as punishment for the incident - but did not have a scheduled game there for seven months anyway.
Mr Raven, who supports Brighton and Hove Albion and works in the finance department at Brighton University, thinks there could be more trouble in England tomorrow night than in Turkey.
He said: "I don't think many people will travel to Turkey.
"What with the security cordon around the stadium, I really think people are going to find it difficult to even get close to the ground.
"I know a lot of people through England games and I do not know of anyone who is going.
"There will probably be more trouble in this country with people fighting with Turkish people living here.
"The atmosphere at the Turkey game in Sunderland in April was reasonably hostile but it was still the best atmosphere I have seen at a football ground.
"There were 5,000 Turks there who helped the atmosphere.
"We were staying in Newcastle and didn't see any trouble all day.
"I think the arrests that were made took place before any trouble.
"If this hadn't been the last match in the group and the deciding fixture, I don't think we would be in the same situation.
"UEFA should have seen the potential and rescheduled the fixture so it wasn't make or break.
"It will decide who wins the group and who has to go through to the play-offs."
Mr Raven admitted he had seen violence when travelling to England games.
But he said the last World Cup was the most well-behaved he had been to.
He said: "There was trouble in Italy in 1990 and we saw the trouble in Zurich before the Liechtenstein game.
"However, in Japan for the World Cup last year we spent a month there and saw no trouble whatsoever.
"The vast majority of England fans are true supporters but there is this minority which gives England the bad name, which I think we have.
"I have been to places such as Georgia, Macedonia and Moldova and not seen anything and the people were really friendly to us."
England need a draw in Istanbul to secure a place in next summer's European Championships in Portugal.
Mr Raven said: "It will be strange not to be there but hopefully we will get the result we need."
If England do qualify for Euro 2004, Mr Raven is set to marry fiancee Liz O'Brien between the end of the domestic football season and the European championships