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STREETS OF SHAME: IN THE EYES OF THE THUGS IT WAS THEIR WORLD CUP TOO.

Byline: COLIN WILLS in Munich

CLOAKED in a carpet of Cross of St George flags, Munich's Olympic Stadium erupted in joy last night as the England fans celebrated a win they had scarcely believed possible.

Choruses of Rule Britannia threatened to lift off the roof as Sven Goran Eriksson's team slammed in goal after goal.

England fans out-shouted and out-sang their German counterparts throughout the game - even before the kick-off two-thirds of the arena seemed to be a sea of red and white. "You're supposed to be at home," the England fans sang, mocking the lack of sound from the German end.

The travelling England orchestra pumped out rallying tunes, including the theme from The Great Escape, spurring on those fans determined to resurrect the World War 2 60 years after their granddads fought it.

I saw them all on the streets of Munich yesterday - the belligerant, the fun-loving and the sinister. One of the most popular choruses was "There's only one Bomber Harris," in honour of the man responsible for flattening German cities in the 1940s.

Among them, thank God, were the genuine football supporters whose only desire is to cheer on their team, see a bit of the world and even (whisper it) make friends with the opposition.

When you saw them sober and clean in their neatly pressed England shirts, your heart leapt for a moment.

But it was always going to be a fixture that would attract the lunatic fringe who soured last night's historic victory. They strutted around in "crews" of 12 or more, muscling into bars and ordering drinks loudly in English ("Come on Hans, hurry up").

Groups of fans bellowed out Land Of Hope And Glory and Rule Britannia, interspersed with a strange little refrain that went: "Meat pie, sausage roll, Come on England give us a goal." What's that all about. Were we going to batter the German team into submission with our terrible cooking?

But the creepiest types were not the beer-soaked majority, but little knots of anonymously dressed men with cold eyes standing slightly apart, whispering to each other, drinking Coca-Cola or making a glass of lager last an hour.

Some of the fans knew them as hard nuts, psychos, who would engineer the most appalling bouts of violence and then melt into the background.

The ordinary, impressionable fans, stoked up on drink and singing, were just cannon fodder, to be manipulated and used.

The psychos knew Munich like their own home towns. They were familiar with the sidestreets and the rat runs, and knew that if trouble broke out it would be almost impossible to contain.

What made yesterday so difficult was that the fans were scattered everywhere.

A sizeable minority, not necessarily looking for violence but not about to walk away from it, were bright-eyed with the buzz of it, they felt like an army conquering a foreign country.

Sadly, in the minds of the hardened hooligans, this THEIR World Cup.
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 2, 2001
Words:493
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