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Comments by YACCS
Friday, June 09, 2006

The return of Bomber Command:)

German police to ignore WWII taunts

By ROY KAMMERER, Associated Press Writer Thu Jun 8, 4:08 PM ET

FRANKFURT, Germany - German police say they won't intervene if English soccer fans taunt their World Cup hosts on the streets with rowdy World War II songs.

British officials hope the 40,000 English followers expected here for Saturday's team opener against Paraguay won't start singing in the first place.

Hoping to prevent any trouble, Frankfurt's police chief and a British government minister on Thursday warned that a strong force of police — among them 80 uniformed British officers — was prepared if song showed signs of spiraling into violence.

"Our aim is that every fan will be happy here in Frankfurt," chief Achim Thiel said.

Vernon Coaker, British Home Office minister in charge of policing and security, said he wanted to persuade English fans not to sing the songs at all.

"It's about saying to people, 'Think about it'. We're not saying 'Ban it!'" he said. If the situation escalates, however, "eventually it could come to the point when you say, 'Sorry, you're arrested.'"

Hundreds of fans arriving early in Frankfurt for Saturday's game wasted no time in striking up their traditional songs at bars and in public squares, the most common of which recounts the British Air Force downing German bombers. The hope is that the locals will ignore them rather than react.

Although British police and security services say 95 percent of 3,500 known hooligans have surrendered their passports — a restriction imposed so they couldn't go to Germany — other fans will sing. Coaker accepts there could be a reaction from Germans.

Coaker said the British police had done everything possible to stop troublemakers getting to Germany. It's up to those fans traveling to the World Cup to respect German laws when they go to England's opener against Paraguay and later first-round games against Trinidad and Tobago in Nuremberg and against Sweden in Cologne.

"The message of the (British) government is for people to recognize where fun may start to cause offense," he said. "The (police) and I have talked about this and want them to think about where they may cross the line."

Of the expected 40,000 England fans arriving in Frankfurt, only 10,000 will have tickets to Saturday's game. While some are expected to troll the black market, Frankfurt Mayor Petra Roth said the ticketless fans can watch the game on giant video screens floating on the River Main from a fan park with a capacity of 30,000 spectators.

The English may be annoying, but the days of mass violence are long over. Known hooligans are kept off the continent for big matches, MI-5 and Special Branch track them, along with the BND. When ignorant Americans talk about soccer riots, they're talking about 20 years ago. European football is hardly problem free, but people need to understand that this has been treated as a major security problem and European police forces have been working together since 2002 to make sure the World Cup is safe and fun.

A good example is Euro 2004, where Greek and Portuguese fans partied together in the streets of Lisbon. That is far more common than the kind of violence once seen to be killing soocer.

Does that mean there won't be some barfights? No. But they rioted in Montreal after they won the Stanley Cup, so some violence is possible. Few people are talking about how civil wars are stopping for the World Cup, something no other sporting event has accomplished. That matters more than some drunk Brits recalling the glory days of 1940.

But I posted this to show exactly how the Europeans are dealing with this issue, and they are, and they have worked hard at doing it.

posted by Steve @ 12:16:00 AM

12:16:00 AM

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