Wed, Feb 14, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Germany to crack down on violence among soccer fans


German soccer federation and police officials warned clubs on Monday of increased security measures to tackle fan violence, including the possibility of playing in empty stadiums.

"A situation like Italy can't be tolerated here," said Konrad Freiberg, the head of the national police union.

Hundreds of fans of FC Lokomotive Leipzig attacked 300 police officers after FC Erzgebirge Aue II beat their team 3-0 on Saturday in a cup match in the eastern state of Saxony. Police said 36 officers and six fans were injured, while 21 police vehicles were vandalized.

Federation and soccer officials from Saxony were to meet yesterday to consider canceling all matches in the state next weekend.

Federation president Theo Zwanziger said Germany could follow Italy's lead and order teams with violent fans to play in empty stadiums.

Germany has seen a surge in stadium violence since hosting the largely peaceful World Cup last year.

Zwanziger threatened a permanent stop to all soccer matches at stadiums in troubled areas of Saxony.

"If we can't stop the violence in the end, despite all our efforts, then we can't allow football to be played there anymore," Zwanziger said.

In Italy, rioting at a Feb. 2 match between Catania and Palermo led to the death of a police officer and 100 people injured. All professional soccer games were then suspended for a week.

"After the incident in Italy, perhaps we should have expected that some hooligans would look for the chance to make it clear to the world that the German hooligans are just as bad as the Italians," Zwanziger said.

The soccer federation set up a task force several months ago to study the violence in German stadiums.

FC Lokomotive Leipzig chairman Frank Mueller refused to resign on Monday, saying he wasn't to blame for the fans' behavior and that politicians should help with security costs.

"Nothing has come from them yet," Mueller said. "I'm scared for my club."

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