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Tight security for U.S. team in Hamburg

Written by: Staff
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HAMBURG, June 7 (Reuters) The class of small German school children carrying tiny American flags watched with their mouths wide open as security frisked their teacher and then rummaged through their own backpacks for any possible dangers.

It was a blunt welcome for the suburban children to the high-security world of the US soccer team, who were holding a public training session yesterday, as they entered the bubble that surrounds the most protected squad at the World Cup.

Whether greeted with armoured vehicles at Hamburg airport or quartered on a closed-off block, the U S players get special treatment in the city where three September 11, 2001 hijackers were students before their attacks on New York and Washington.

''When security is handled properly you don't notice,'' said U S coach Bruce Arena, who picked the heart of Germany's second city to base his squad despite the multitude of security issues and concerns that they could be a terror target.

Arena, whose players travel in an unmarked bus with a presidential-style police escort on different routes, said the training session was open to help compensate for any inconvenience the squad's presence may cause the locals.

THANK YOU ''We are a little bit of a nuisance as we come through with our procession of sirens and everything else,'' Arena said. ''We rattle them a little bit so the least we could do is thank them for their support and hospitality.'' Before the team landed, Hamburg airport was guarded through the night with high-tech infrared cameras and their training site in the Ochsenzoll district has been dubbed ''Fort Knoxenzoll'' by local newspapers.

''We're on red alert for the U S team,'' said Reinhard Fallak, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Hamburg, a city that is proud and delighted to host the U S team.

The usually busy Hamburg street in front of their luxury hotel near the central train station has been shut off behind barricades that give it an eerie ghost-town feel. Police at either end turn away everyone without special passes.

Airport-style metal detectors and more security are set up inside the revolving doors of the hotel, one of the finest in Hamburg.

There is no loitering inside, making a lobby that is normally full of life as quiet as a morgue.

''Obviously, being American, security is more heightened than with other countries,'' said playmaker Landon Donovan.

''But I only think about it when I'm asked about it. The security is fantastic. I feel as safe as when I'm at home,'' added the midfielder who hails from California.

REUTERS DH BST1537

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