Danish supporters are the best drinkers in the world... probably

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The Independent Online
THE GAME is called "gallop" and the rules seem dangerously simple. "If you get dealt a queen or a knight from the pack of cards then you drink half your drink. But if you get dealt an ace you have to finish it," explained Lars Honriksen, 35, from Grenna, a port city in Denmark's Jutland region.

Lars and his friends had been drinking since 6am when they set off on the train from Paris yesterday morning and they were old hands at such games. "Yes, sometimes it does mean that you get to drink a lot," he admitted. "It's more a game for the younger people."

In truth, there were few Danes playing gallop in Toulouse yesterday but there were thousands of them tipping beer down their throats with a rare fury before their team's afternoon encounter against South Africa.

In the sweltering open squares in the city centre, many of the 20,000 Danish fans wearing red and white shirts and waving flags, were having a party with such intensity you would have thought the world was about to impose an eternal ban on enjoyment. And quite predictably, there was not the merest hint of any trouble.

It would be too simplistic to say all Danes can drink like fish and remain decent, charming people, while a half-pint of watery lager turns an English football supporter into a violent yob. But yesterday's scenes posed the question: Why do some end up fighting in the streets while others do not?

"I think it is part of Danish culture that we drink and enjoy ourselves but stay in a good mood," said Soren Jensen, also from Grenna.

Other countries manage this trick, too. James Rawlison, the British Consul General in south-west France, witnessed the encounter between the Norwegian and Scottish fans after their team's 1-1 match in Bordeaux. "Between them they drank the place dry. They were drunk, they were loud but they were incredibly good-natured," he said. "There was not one incident reported to the police and no one I have spoken to has had a bad word against them.

"The local paper even ran a story welcoming back the Scots any time they wanted to come and thanking them for adding to the atmosphere."

Inspector Peter Chapman, head if the National Criminal Intelligence Service's football unit, said this week that excessive drinking was a key factor in the violence that broke out last weekend in Marseilles. His analysis may be right but there must be more to it than just that.

Toulouse's "English pub" the Frog and Rosbif, a noisy, sweaty place where they brew their own beer, has been full of English supporters this week. They have been loud, drunk and singing along to Queen hits from the Seventies, but they have not been causing any trouble.

"You should not be too hard on the English," said Mr Honriksen's friend Kyeld Sorensen. "I was in Sheffield during Euro '96 and I had a great time with the English. There was no trouble," he said. "I just think some of the English people are not here for the football."