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Belgium Awaits English Soccer Fans

June 20, 2000

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ Battered Belgium was wondering which English soccer fans would be in greater abundance at Euro 2000 on Tuesday: noisy, entertaining ones or racist, violent thugs.

Hundreds of English louts smashed up shops and bars in Brussels and fought with police and rival supporters in Charleroi before England’s 1-0 Euro 2000 victory over Germany on Saturday. That prompted soccer’s European body, UEFA, to threaten the team with expulsion from the championships if it happened again.

The threat is seen as a slight to the vast majority of peaceful, entertaining English fans who bought their tickets months ago. But the fact that hundreds of louts tag along as well 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 showed up and renewed their violence at the game against Romania in Charleroi on Tuesday, 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.

In light of the UEFA threat, the British government on Monday announced new measures to deter fan violence. Included was a lifetime ban from domestic games 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.″

Perhaps the UEFA threat is the answer, at least in the short time.

England coach Kevin Keegan and the English Football Association argued strongly that the vast majority of English fans are not only peaceful, but 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,″ the England coach added. ``It disappoints me. Respect other people’s countries, that is the very minimum that should be required.″

On Monday, Turkey scored its first-ever European championship victory and kicked cohost Belgium out of the tournament. Reawakened star Hakan Sukur scored twice to help Turkey join Italy in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Italy, already assured of topping Group B, played its substitutes in the second round.

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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