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UK soccer fans riot after Euro '96 loss

By
SHARMILA DEVI

LONDON, June 27 -- A Russian student was seriously wounded in a stabbing attack and British police arrested more than 300 people nationwide after violence broke out in the wake of the English team's 6- 5 loss to Germany in the Euro '96 soccer semifinal in London. The Russian student, who was not identified, was stabbed five times by two British thugs after being asked if he and three friends were German, police said. He was recovering in hospital near Portslade, the southern English town where he was studying, and was listed in serious but stable condition The worst violence took place in Trafalgar Square in central London, where some 40 people were hurt, 18 of them police officers, as hundreds of fans threw beer cans and bottles at police lines. The fans overturned cars and smashed windows, prompting mounted police to charge the crowd. Prime Minister John Major, who was in the French city of Lyon for the annual summit of the Group of Seven industrialized countries, condemned the violence, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported. 'The demonstration was not remotely in the spirit of the whole tournament, it wasn't remotely in the spirit of the way the England team played and it wasn't remotely in the spirit of the sportsmanship that we actually saw on the pitch at Wembley (Stadium) last night,' Major said. 'These people shouldn't besmirch soccer, they are not soccer supporters, they do damage to soccer.' Although the fans' passion was in evidence across Great Britain, not all of those who had hoped for a repeat of England's victory over Germany in the World Cup 30 years ago lived up to British fans' reputation for hooliganism.

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Seven supporters were so distraught after the defeat that they jumped off a pier in the southern coastal town of Brighton and had to be rescued by the coast guard. But pockets of violence erupted in many towns across the country, and the London Metropolitan Police sent officers to help contain the mayhem. Although soccer hooliganism has declined at domestic matches, due in part to more stringent policing, fans accompanying the English squad to tournaments abroad still cause trouble. One of the most notorious incidents occurred in 1985 at Belgium's Heysel Stadium, when 39 people were killed after a wall collapsed as Liverpool fans charged those of the Italian club Juventas. The incident led to British teams being banned from European club competitions for five years. Some 75,000 fans watched Wednesday's match at Wembley Stadium, and another 26 million Britons caught the game on television. Germany will play the Czech Republic in Sunday's final, ending the three-week, European tournament which occurs every four years.

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