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England, Sweden Fans Clash After Game

Posted June. 22, 2006 03:06,   


It was English color that covered up the square in front of Cologne Cathedral. Sitting on the steps of the historic cathedral were yelling English soccer fans with war paint on their faces and flags wrapped around their persons.

Cologne Station, the gateway to Rhein Energie Stadium where the old soccer rivalry of England and Sweden was scheduled, was no scene of tranquility either. The ones that just got out of the train held an impromptu rally in front of the cathedral before boarding buses or trams headed for the stadium. Beer chugging started already in the packed tram. Some yelled out cheering slogans; others followed. A few of them—already quite tipsy—blocked the tram’s exit in attempt to hassle other passengers.

Inside and outside the stadium stood policemen in riot gear with police dogs and ambulances ready for action. To curb the notorious English hooligans, the organizers of the World Cup did not sell tickets to blacklisted names in the first place. Still, they kept a strict vigil for any unforeseen threats.

Swedish fans were the first to mobilize before game start. Some ten thousand yellow-clad Swedes got up from their seats to yell and clap. English fans retaliated with rhythmical chants similar to Korean Red Devils’ cheers. English fans adorned themselves with either red or white tops.

Outside the stadium, there were rampant beer drinking. Joe Smith (41), a proud English fan, suspected that at least thirty thousand Brits came to the stadium. Lindren Martz (41) from Sweden said he expected the day’s match to be especially rough as the World Cup rivalry of the two teams goes deep.

With English fans occupying three quarters of the stadium, the game started. England fans sang in unison to drum beats. The outnumbered Swedes displayed their passion by standing up and cheering for the entire duration of the match.

Early on, England led the game with Joe Cole’s lively performance. But in the second half, Sweden’s endurance gave the team the edge: the game ended in 2-2 draw. In its 38 year-old rivalry with Team Sweden, England has 8 draws and 4 losses.

Fortunately, there were no violent incidents during the game. Both teams kept their cool in the heated match and excessive tackles were rare. But then something ugly happened afterward: as fans were coming out of the crowded stadium and mingling with one another, their emotions exploded. A few fans clashed in the vicinity of the stadium and a few bleeding English fans were carried off to the hospital. The police contained the scene and stopped the excitement from escalating. Nonetheless, it was a scene of utter disorder with chairs and tables lying about attesting to the turmoil that had taken place.

The pouring out of the soccer crowd congested the road as far as the Cologne Station. The long night was filled with colors of two nations and cries of their soccer fans.

Won-Hong Lee bluesky@donga.com