A London soccer fan is being hailed as an everyday hero for bravely fighting off a massive group of Dutch fans trying to attack players’ families after a match.
Chris “Knollsy” Knoll, 58, has been dubbed “The Angel of Alkmaar,” after he fought off a group of rabid fans of the the Netherlands AZ Alkmaar, after they angrily tried to attack the family section of visiting West Ham United.
For the first time since 1976, an English Premier League team advanced to the Europa Conference League semi-finals.
Fans of the opposing team were so enraged that they pulled on their hoods to keep their identities hidden and converged on the visiting team’s families in the stands.
Concerned players tried to stop the violent group from approaching their nearest and dearest, but could not keep the tide of black back.
In a brawl that took security ten minutes to get under control, dozens of hooded men ascended the stairs to the family section, only to thwarted by the burly Englishman.
Knolls jumped into the fray when West Ham defender Thilo Kerher’s girlfriend was targeted by the mob.
Despite recently recovering from a hip replacement surgery, Knoll stood at the top of the stairs and held back dozens of fans with brutal punches and kicks that were caught on a spectator’s camera.
“I’m not a hero. I just did what I had to do,” he told The Daily Mail. “I don’t like bullies and just had to try and stop them.”
Knoll said that the crowd was initially “getting a little bit rowdy” after West Ham scored the game winning goal.
“I saw them all congregated on the side of the pitch and then they broke down the barriers and headed to the first group of West Ham fans,” he remarked.
“I know what they were intent on doing and was not going to let it happen,” Knoll detailed. “I just decided I wasn’t going to let them come up.”
“I just thought the best form of defense would be to get to the top of the stairs where they were coming up and just stood there and tried to stop them,” he said.
“I know they were swinging punches and I just did my best to stand there and take it.”
Knoll received a black eye and a torn shirt for his trouble, but the five-year season ticket holder didn’t realize that he had become West Ham hero until he went to Sunday’s home game.
Fans chanted his name at a pub outside London Stadium, and he received a standing ovation during the game.
“What a reception, a standing ovation, my own song and I never bought a single beer,” he remarked.
Knolls said that when he tried to exit after the game, it took him nearly an hour to walk halfway across the stadium, because so many people stopped to praise him.
“I was made to feel like the people’s champion. I noticed the amount of women thanking me for looking after their families. I’m on the crest of a wave at the moment.”
The team thanked him with a ticket to the Europa Conference finals, when West Ham faces of with Fiorentina in Prague on June 7.
A club official called while Knoll was at work, and he was so happy about the gift that he “nearly cried.”
The club official had been sitting two rows behind him at the AZ Alkmaar match, and witnessed his actions.
“She said I had been very courageous and that I deserved a ticket,” Knoll commented. “I know how difficult it is to get a ticket. I am so happy at this.”
“It’s ironic that she was the one who phoned me today,” he added. “I remember joking with her earlier about whether she could get me a ticket if we got to the final.