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Fans Checked at Germany’s Border

June 24, 1998

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ The German Interior Ministry intensified border checks Wednesday for soccer fans traveling to the World Cup in France, fearing that German thugs might repeat their weekend violence at upcoming matches.

Violence has shaken the five-week soccer championship since it began June 10, with clashes outside stadiums leaving more than 100 injured, including a policeman who was in a coma after being beaten by German soccer thugs.

Interior Minister Manfred Kanther ordered an additional 1,000 police posted along the southwestern border to target hooligans traveling to Thursday’s Germany-Iran match in Montpelier, France.

The French daily Le Monde also quoted a French intelligence memo as saying German toughs may look ``to gain the title of `best hooligans of Europe‴ by clashing with English thugs after Friday’s match between England and Colombia in the northern city of Lens.

Germany’s increased border checks came after about 180 German hooligans clashed with French police during and after Sunday’s match between Germany and Yugoslavia.

In all, 93 Germans and three French were detained in the spasm of violence in Lens, the French Interior Ministry said.

Two known German hooligans _ Markus Warnecke, 27, of Hanover, and Steffen Karl Elschner, 26, of Braunschweig _ were arrested for beating French policeman Daniel Nivel into a coma.

Shocked and shamed by the violence, Germans nationwide launched fund-raising campaigns Wednesday for the injured officer’s family.

``Our entire sympathy at this difficult time goes to his wife and both his sons,″ said a statement from the Berlin police group Gruener Stern, which opened a donations account where people could transfer money.

The Bild tabloid, Germany’s most-read newspaper, declared on its front page that it was giving $27,900 to Nivel’s family and asked readers for donations.

The effectiveness of sweeping border checks remained in doubt, however.

Even Kanther admitted Wednesday that stopping hooligans at the border ``is like looking for a needle in a haystack.″

Soccer thugs move in small groups to avoid detection and cannot be easily distinguished from other travelers _ particularly in the busy summer vacation months.

Kanther said it might be more successful if local authorities identify soccer hooligans planning violence and then prevent them from traveling abroad.

The German Sports Federation has proposed setting up a data bank on soccer hooligans, an idea supported by Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel.

German police make up a dozen of the 180 hooligan-spotting units from the 32 nations in France for the World Cup, with the largest group of 25 from England.

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