Horrifying scenes were underway at the AFAS Stadion in Alkmaar following the final whistle of the Europa Conference League Semifinals when a bunch of Alkmaar ultras decided to hoard on the away fans’ section of the AFAS Stadion, attempting to launch, what it looked like, an attack on the friends and families of the West Ham players.
AZ Alkmaar suffered a 1-0 loss to David Moyes’ Hammers in the return fixture of the Conference League semifinal tie, crashing out of the competition in the process. “Frustrated” would be the polite way to describe the mood of the home fans, who felt humiliated after being knocked out of their first European semifinal appearance in ages. The Alkmaar Ultras, who had shown up in balaclavas, decided to march towards the away fans’ end, breaching past the security and trying to attack the away supporters.
However, in the way of the ultras stood a certain bold, 58-year-old, father of four with a broken hip and a torn shirt, “Knollsy”, who managed to, with the help of a few other middle-aged men, fend off the rattled home supporters.
Meet Chris Knoll, aka, Knollsy, a 58-year-old electrician and lifelong West Ham aficionado residing in Hampton, West London. Knoll was among the limited Hammers supporters travelling to the Netherlands to cheer for the club of his life as West Ham faced AZ Alkmaar, the last hurdle in the way of David Moyes and his squad’s dream of reaching a European final.
After getting the 2-1 lead in the home fixture, West Ham headed into the return leg with confidence as they just needed a draw. It was more than a draw when, in added time, Fornals scored the only goal of the match, sending the Hammers into the final. As aforementioned, things then took an ugly turn when the disappointed AZ Alkmaar supporters rushed towards the away fans breaching past security.
It was then when the 58-year-old Chris Knoll stood up in defence of his fellow Blue-and-Claret enthusiasts as he laid punches and exchanged blows with the ultras, knocking a few out in the process and taking some hits himself. Notably, Knoll, an electrician by profession, was still recovering from his recent hip surgery when the events at Alkmaar transpired, and valiantly enough, Knoll did not think twice before engaging in hand-to-hand combat with what it looked like, nearly 50 of the AZ supporters, with little help.
Chris himself shed more light onto the fracas when the 58-year-old shared insiders of the event with The Telegraph. “It was either a case of doing nothing and probably taking a bit of a beating or doing something about it. So I just took the high ground and placed myself at the bottom of the stairs where I knew they had to come up” quoted Knollsy, explaining his ways of action after spotting nearly 50-60 AZ ultras marching towards them.
Hammers goalkeeper Alphonse Areola took to Twitter to heap praises on Knollsy, calling him a “legend” for keeping the West Ham supporters and the players’ families safe. His wife, Marrion, later took to Instagram to thank the man herself. Reacting to Areolas’ comments, Knoll said, “It makes me very proud, to get a message from a player is lovely really. And a lot of recognition from other people.” “it was just a case of limiting the damage”, stated the humble chap.
This was not the first time though when Knoll was addressed by a West Ham player. The Hammers supporter had previously also received a message of support from West Ham ace Declan Rice back in 2021 when the former was in “poor shape”.
On the day of the semifinal, Chris coincidentally got his seat behind Thilo Kehrer’s girlfriend’s seat. Worried about her after glancing at the approaching AZ ultras, the 58-year-old walked to the top of the stairwell, fending off the storming Alkmaar fans. “Knollsy” clearly maintains a close connection with some of the West Ham players.
Also in the same interview, Knoll acknowledged the rumours that suggested him being an ‘old school’ hooligan who was part of the notorious ICF (Inter City Firm) gang. Responding to the chatter, Knoll said “I’m not involved in any trouble, just an ordinary season ticket holder who goes to every home game.”
Ever since the clips of Knollsy punching away the AZ “hooligans” broke out, fans have been demanding West Ham United, or the players of the club, to buy the man a front-row ticket to Prague, to the Europa Conference League final against Fiorentina. Saddeningly though, the man himself, Chris Knoll made it known in the interview that the “Angel of Alkmaar” could not secure a ticket to the conference league final, causing an eruption among the Twitterati who’ve been calling out the club to get Knoll a ticket to the final. Some even suggested that the 58-year-old deserves a season ticket from West Ham.
In other news, UEFA will review the full reports of the night’s events before deciding on potential disciplinary actions against AZ and its supporters. The possibility of appointing an inspector to further investigate the situation is also being considered. Meanwhile, UK police officers will meet with their Czech Republic counterparts to ensure a comprehensive security plan is in place for the final in Prague, amid increasing pressure to guarantee the safety of all attendees.