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Police fear east versus west World Cup hooligan brawls

Written by: Staff
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BERLIN, May 5 (Reuters) German and Polish police chiefs fear rival hooligan gangs from eastern and western Europe will clash at next month's soccer World Cup in Germany.

''The great unknown for us is what comes our way from the east European countries,'' said Heinz Theus, police director from the eastern German city of Leipzig.

''It can very well happen that people look for confrontations ...

The east Europeans want to measure themselves against the west Europeans,'' he told Reuters.

Tadeusz Pawlaczyk, a Polish police commander from Szczecin near the German border, said police were aware of contacts between German and Polish troublemakers and suspected the aim was to organise fights to prove which gang was tougher.

''We know who the people are but we don't know what their plans are...They communicate over the Internet and they organise meetings.

We're doing everything to prevent (clashes) but I can't say for sure it won't happen,'' he said.

One such planned brawl took place in November in a wood on the German side of the border, when some 45 Germans clashed with more than 50 Poles who travelled to the rendezvous by bus.

Pawlaczyk told a Berlin police conference on World Cup security that the Polish authorities have the situation under control and would closely monitor all travelling fans during the month-long tournament beginning on June 9.

''We know who the pseudo-fans are...The potential troublemakers are under control,'' he said, while acknowledging that police have no powers to ban people from travelling to Germany unless they have committed a crime.

Leipzig's Theus said he remained concerned about both hooliganism and organised crime. Serbia and Montenegro and the Netherlands, who face each other in Leipzig on June 11, are both assessed by police as ''high risk'' teams for hooliganism.

Authorities are also worried about the Iran-Angola game in Leipzig on June 21, but for a different reason. Far-rightists have announced plans to demonstrate in support of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statements denying the Nazi Holocaust and calling for Israel to be wiped off the map.

The rally needs approval from city authorities. Theus said it would certainly provoke left-wing counter-demonstrations if it went ahead.

''Where there's right, there's left. Our job is to keep them apart,'' he said.

REUTERS PG PM1734

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