England Fans Exit World Cup Quietly

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By MATT MOORE
The Associated Press
Sunday, July 2, 2006; 4:19 PM

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany -- In the end, England's soccer fans accepted World Cup defeat with dignity _ and without the drunken violence authorities had prepared for and hoped against.

Tens of thousands of soccer lovers sporting the colors of Portugal, England and a host of other countries drowned their sorrows _ or joy _ in beer and bratwurst.

Just 100 people were arrested for minor offenses after Portugal beat England, German police said Sunday. There was more trouble in France, which beat Brazil Saturday to advance to the semifinals. In Paris, youths smashed windows and threw bottles at police officers, who detained 69 people.

If Germany was the test, England fans passed.

"I think our real fans have been absolutely superb," said Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Thomas, the senior English police officer assisting the Germans at the World Cup.

Of the 6,000 arrests made since the tournament began June 9, he noted, just 711 were British.

The threat of hooligan violence was a major theme leading up to the competition.

But German police were impressed by the way the crowds seemed to manage themselves, cheering on each others' teams and exchanging more shirts, photographs and hugs than angry words or blows.

In Gelsenkirchen, Police President Ruediger von Schenfeldt said that fans from all countries took it upon themselves to keep one another in line.

England fans who carried a bad reputation based on past hooliganism are being seen in a new light not just by Germans, but by the world, said Kevin Miles, the international coordinator of the Football Supporters' Federation.

"It's been an extraordinarily positive contribution made to the tournament as a whole by English supporters," he said.

Trouble at previous soccer tournaments in Europe and flare ups involving German and Polish fans at local matches made organizers wary.

At the 1998 World Cup, German hooligans beat a French policeman to near death and England fans rioted in Marseilles. At the 2000 European Championship, hundreds of rioting Britons were arrested in Belgium.

The 2006 World Cup has been low key when it comes to arrests.

On June 14, police clashed with German hooligans and eventually arrested 430 people, after Germany played Poland in Dortmund. By the next morning all had been released. On June 24 in Stuttgart, police arrested more than 500 England fans who hurled bottles and plastic chairs in separate outbursts that injured nine people.


© 2006 The Associated Press

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