England Trouble before the Big Game

Article excerpt

Byline: RICHARD EDWARDS;SHEKHAR BHATIA

RIOT police cleared thousands of England fans from the centre of Cologne after trouble flared early today.

Officers used pepper spray and batons in an ugly exchange sparked by a small group of England supporters.

Hundreds of police stormed through the Alter Markt, one of the city's old squares, at around midnight.

More than 2,500 England fans had been enjoying a massive street party, drinking all day with Sweden supporters and Germans.

Police said the trouble was triggered after one England fan, who had climbed up a statue, accidentally dropped a bottle of beer on supporters below him.

He was pelted with missiles and fell 15 feet as he tried to climb down.

Witnesses said a man carrying a German flag had tried to climb the statue and was also targeted.

Ambulance crews and police moved in to investigate, and were pelted with dozens of bottles. Riot police then scrambled and charged at the crowds - many of whom were still chanting and taunting the officers. They cleared the area in under an hour. Six officers were injured and four arrests were made.

The flashpoint came only hours after Sir Peter Torry, Britain's ambassador to Germany, had praised the behaviour of England fans at the World Cup.

More than 5,000 riot police will be on the streets of Cologne today as the city swells with football fans for England's game against Sweden.

Around 75,000 England supporters have engulfed the area, along with 15,000 Swedes. Up to 20,000 Germans supporters are also expected on the streets to cheer the host nation as they play Ecuador this afternoon. It is the first time Germany have played on the same day as England in the tournament.

An honorary English suburb has been created on the banks of the Rhine, where up to 40,000 fans are gathering at campsites. There is not a spare hotel bed in the city.

Massive storms yesterday failed to dampen the party atmosphere.

Ten days of hot sunshine in Germany have given way to torrential downpours - with showers forecast to continue throughout the day. But it did not put a dampener on the England fans. When downpours drenched them as they responded by taking off their shirts and dancing in the streets.

At the official Cologne campsite - which is teeming with around 15,000 fans in tents and campervans - they were dealing with unexpected downpours.

Daniel York, 26, a security training officer, from Croydon, said: " Campervans were getting stuck in the mud and tents being flooded but it all adds to the fun. …