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Belgium Awaits Soccer Fan Invasion

June 20, 2000

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ Battered Belgium was wondering which English soccer fans would be in greater abundance at the European Championships on Tuesday: noisy, entertaining ones or window-smashing thugs.

Hundreds of English fans destroyed shops and bars in Brussels and fought with police and rival fans in Charleroi before England’s 1-0 victory over Germany on Saturday. That prompted soccer’s European body, UEFA, to threaten the team with expulsion from the tournament if it happened again.

The prospect of more unrest assumed greater urgency after a third night of violence in the heart of Brussels, this time involving Turkish fans celebrating their nation’s advance to the quarterfinals, a 2-0 victory over Belgium that eliminated the tournament co-host.

Scuffles broke out between fans after the game at King Baudouin Stadium. Police used tear gas when rioting youths started breaking pub windows and sought out English fans.

In all 43 people were detained, including 18 arrests for violence and possession of knives.

``These were people still looking for British hooligans, for revenge,″ Brussels mayor Francois-Xavier de Donnea said. ``They still feel they were psychologically attacked by the British hooligans.″

The warning of the possible expulsion of England is seen as a slight to the vast majority of peaceful English fans who bought tickets months ago. But the fact that hundreds of louts tag along has put a question mark over the entire army of England followers.

UEFA president Lennart Johansson and chief executive Gerhard Aigner warned that if the hooligans renewed their violence at the game against Romania , there was a good chance England would be thrown out.

Such a move is unprecedented for the European Championship, although UEFA banned English teams from overseas games for five years in 1985. Back then, rioting by Liverpool fans at Brussels’ Heysel Stadium killed 39 people at the Champions Cup final against Italy’s Juventus.

The British government on Monday announced new measures to deter fan violence. Included was a lifetime ban from games in England and stepping up detentions of known hooligans at customs.

But the police argue they still have no real power to stop the hooligans crossing the English Channel and going to the game.

``In our powers, we can seek them out, we know who they are and we try to discourage them from traveling,″ Steve Chisnall, of Greater Manchester Police Football Intelligence Unit said after some 850 fans were detained and 56 people injured in rioting in Brussels and Charleroi.

``We have no powers to stop them traveling. We give their details to foreign authorities and we inform individuals there is a possibility when they get to their destination, they will be turned around and sent back home.

``There’s always more that can be done, but as far as we are concerned, we can only act within the law to prevent people from traveling,″ Chisnall said. ``Whether something more can be done is up to someone else.″

England coach Kevin Keegan and the English Football Association argued strongly that most English fans are a credit to their team and the competition.

``Before I left I said I wanted fans to come out here for the right reasons,″ Keegan said. ``We wanted the same things as the fans _ to win the tournament.

``The ones who come over there for the wrong reasons, we don’t want them in the stadiums,″ he added. ``It disappoints me. Respect other people’s countries, that is the very minimum that should be required.″

On Monday, Turkey scored its first European Championship victory. Hakan Sukur scored twice to help Turkey join Italy in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Italy, assured of winning Group B, played its substitutes in a 2-1 win over Sweden for its third straight victory.

In addition to England vs. Romania, Portugal plays Germany on Tuesday. Lothar Matthaeus, celebrating his 150th international appearance, could be playing his final game for Germany.

Whatever the result, Portugal will play Turkey in Amsterdam on Saturday.

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