Belgium Has Soccer Hooligan Fears
Jun. 15, 2000
CHARLEROI, Belgium (AP) _ Fears of hooliganism at Saturday's game between England and Germany at the European Soccer Championships have grown because a loss could knock either country out of the tournament.
Tension has mounted in this industrial city of 200,000, located 31 miles south of Brussels, and local authorities are worried about post-game violence by frustrated fans.
``It would have been better if both had won their opening matches. Then the loser on Saturday would not be totally out of advancing,'' Charleroi mayor Jacques Van Gompel said.
``This will result in extra pressure and tension both on and off the field.''
England is 0-1, defending champion Germany 0-0-1.
Police have received reports from the Dutch intelligence service that English hooligans are going to target Turkish immigrants to seek revenge for the stabbing deaths of two English fans before a club soccer game in Istanbul in April.
More than 3,000 police officers will be on duty Saturday, and officials promised a zero-tolerance approach.
``Even somebody caught urinating against a wall will be picked off the street,'' Maj. Michel Rompen, a police spokesman, said.
Holding cells have been built within walking distance of the 30,000-capacity Stade du Pays de Charleroi Stadium in case of major incidents on Saturday. The Belgian and Dutch governments passed ``quick justice'' laws ahead of the tournament to allow prosecutors to try troublemakers immediately.
Organizers have resisted pressure from police, politicians and the head of soccer's global governing body, FIFA president Sepp Blatter, to move the match to a bigger and safer location.
All tickets for the game were sold out months ago, but some reports claim as many as 40,000 English fans without tickets might show up.
Other concerns are that the stadium's stands are too steep and that it's in a residential neighborhood. The narrow streets around the stadium could create a haven for hooligans, because police say the layout will make it hard for officers to act quickly if trouble erupts.
Preventative measures are being taken across the country and at Belgium's borders to try to stem the flow of hooligans to Charleroi. Guards at the French, German, and Dutch frontiers have increased surveillance and checks of people and vehicles entering the country. Police spotters at border areas are looking for known hooligans who might try to enter Belgium.
Belgian and Dutch authorities are also keeping their eye on a noted group of about 50 English hooligans who were in Eindhoven, Netherlands, and might try to get to Charleroi.
Transit cities like Brussels and North Sea port city Oostende are also bracing for violence. Many of the English supporters will be coming to Charleroi by ferry, train and by bus, and Oostende is a favorite landing port for the English.