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Rowdy English Soccer Fans Invade Duesseldorf

June 15, 1988

DUESSELDORF, West Germany (AP) _ Hundreds of West German and English soccer fans brawled at a train station, setting off street battles and window-smashing sprees that lasted into this morning. Police said 130 rioters were arrested.

Later, about 2,000 English fans, many of them drunk and wearing ″Invasion of Germany 1988″ T-shirts, filled streets surrounding the main train station as Dutch fans arrived for a match in the European Soccer Championships.

Several hundred police kept the groups separated and directed the Dutch fans through a side exit of the train station.

England and the Netherlands were set to square off later today. The two countries’ fans have the worst reputations for violence among European soccer supporters.

″Behave yourselves. Be a credit to your country and to your football team. If you don’t, you are doing us no good at all,″ Bobby Robson, manager of England’s team, said in an appeal to fans before the game.

At least three police officers and an undetermined number of fans were injured in the street clashes that began late Tuesday. Police arrested 90 English and 40 West German fans.

Police said the fighting was quelled about 2 a.m. today.

Bar operators in Duesseldorf said today they were closing early to avoid the rowdies.

Engelbert Oxenfurt, head of Duesseldorf’s Club and Restaurant Association, said soccer rowdies smashed windows in the city’s picturesque old section.

″It was all over in about 20 minutes,″ Oxenfurt said. ″It’s not worth it for us to stay open with this going on,″ he told West Germany’s ARD television.

ARD said police were caught off guard by the violence. It said despite the presence of more than 2,300 police officers in Duesseldorf, only a few hundred were on duty when fans of opposing teams began arriving late Tuesday.

In London, members of Parliament and respected commentators called today for England’s team to pull out of the European Championship because of the violence.

One leading columnist said the fighting, which has left hundreds jailed and dozens injured, had made Britain look like ″a zoo of dangerous animals″ in the eyes of the world.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher planned to meet with Colin Moynihan, Britain’s sports minister, to discuss the problem.

The disturbances started after German fans began arriving from nearby Gelsenkirchen, where their team had defeated Denmark earlier in the evening. About 300 West German fans began attacking about the same number of English fans near the Duesseldorf train station, police said in a statement.

The rowdies, many of them drunk, smashed shop windows and automobile windshields.

On Sunday, 107 people, mostly English, were arrested in violence in Stuttgart after the English team was defeated by Ireland in the opening round of the tournament.

Afterwards, Mrs. Thatcher issued a stern warning to the troublemakers, demanded an urgent report and said the rowdiness could damage Britain’s business interests in Europe.

In May 1985, English fans attacked supporters of Juventus of Turin, Italy, at Heysel stadium in Brussels. The ensuing riot left 39 people, most of them Italians, dead. English soccer clubs, except the national team, have been barred from European competition since then.

Eight English fans were arrested Tuesday after brawling in the center of Frankfurt. Farther north on the route to Duesseldorf, police in Cologne arrested 22 English and Irish fans who were smashing windows.

Police in Mannheim said one drunken English fan fell onto railroad tracks and was dragged along by an oncoming engine, suffering critical injuries.

Since European Championship play began Friday, most official attention has been devoted to the English fans. Many drape themselves in the Union Jack, and some paint the national banner or soccer balls on their faces. Many drink throughout the day, tossing bottles on the streets.

West Germany’s huge police operation for the two-week championship series also has focused on the Italians.

A special force of about 1,200 officers, plus helicopters, patrolled Frankfurt for Tuesday night’s game between Italy and Spain. On Sunday, mounted riot police backed by officers with dogs broke up the brawls in Stuttgart that accompanied England’s 1-0 loss to Ireland.

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