Ready For Hooligans To Kick Off

Any football hooligans deciding to kick off and cause trouble at the Euro 2008 European Championship will find Swiss authorities more than ready for them.

Dozens of Geneva police equipped with Glock automatic pistols, tear gas canisters and batons donned riot gear in the Plainpalais fan zone June 3 to practice crowd control tactics on fellow officers acting as rowdy supporters.

The giant Aleppo convention centre was turned into a temporary detention facility before the city hosted Portugal vs. Turkey June 7, which went according to the form book with the Portuguese winning 2-0.

Geneva was also due to stage the Czech Republic’s games against Portugal (June 11) and Turkey (June 15).

The three match days are the biggest operations the local police have handled since anti-capitalist riots erupted in the city during the G8 summit of world leaders at nearby Evian-les-Bains in France five years ago.

Although the city is prepared for trouble, it isn’t particularly expecting any.

"The main concern is that there are a lot of people, a lot of passion and a lot of interest. We have to see how to manage this crowd," says Geneva police commander Christian Cudre-Mauroux.

"In a few days you have at the same moment two matches with four different teams. It’s a very mixed public, so it’s very interesting for us.

"At the moment I don’t think there is a very special hooligan following for a team here," he said, possibly reflecting on the fact that England failed to get through the qualifying rounds.

The security forces had a trial run controlling the crowd June 6, when former tennis champion Yannick Noah, now one of France’s most popular singers, did a free concert in the "fan zone," a 60,000-plus-capacity area in Plainpalais public square.

During the competition the matches will be relayed to Plainpalais and broadcast on two giant screens.

In Berne, the public viewing zones at the 15,000-capacity Bundesplatz and 5,000-capacity Waisenhausplatz are being operated by Philippe Cornu’s Appalooza Productions, which is confident the football won’t have such a negative effect on Gurten Festival’s ticket sales as the World Cup did when it was staged in Germany in 2006.

"We think it is different situation than with the world championship, when a lot of Swiss people were traveling to Germany. Now they can stay at home and enjoy the party, which may even have a positive effect," Cornu told Pollstar.

The first game to be played in Berne was Holland’s 3-0 victory over World champions Italy on June 9th, a match between two sides whose fans have been noted to get a little too worked up in the past.

But the only trouble so far has come in Austria, which led to more than 100 scuffling fans being arrested after Germany’s 2-0 win against Poland June 8.