Germany nearly quit World Cup

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The Independent Online
THE GERMAN football authorities yesterday considered withdrawing from the World Cup after hundreds of German neo-Nazis ran riot in Lens.

The disturbances caused thousands of pounds' worth of damage and left a French policeman in a coma on a life support machine. His condition was said by the French authorities to be between "life and death''.

Egidius Braun, the head of the German football federation, broke down in tears following an emergency meeting in Paris yesterday during which the possibility of imposing sanctions against the German team was discussed. He said: "That wasn't hooliganism any more, it was terrorism. We are trying to represent our country properly in France and then criminals come and destroy it all."

A spokesman for the federation later rejected reports that an offer to withdraw had been made seriously. "It might be that in the first moments of shock, the question of a measured reaction, possibly a withdrawal, was hinted at or raised," said a spokesman for the federation. "But within the delegation there were no serious considerations to withdraw the team,"

As the German government, its national team, French President Jacques Chirac and Fifa condemned the violence, police admitted they were not prepared for the degree of organisation and planning of the German hooligans.

Unlike the English hooligans who rioted in Marseilles a week ago, police said it appeared the Germans had been planning their efforts for some time.

"An assessment of the tactics the hooligans used makes us think they were highly organised," said a British police intelligence source. Police sources estimate there were around 600 hard core Category C German hooligans involved in the violence in Lens on Sunday night, before, during and after Germany's 2-2 draw against Yugoslavia.

Some 96 fans, mostly German, were detained after clashes with riot police. One officer, Daniel Nivel, 44, was last night still on a life support machine having been clubbed around the head by a man armed with a metal bar. His attacker was arrested and police sources in Hamburg yesterday identified him as a known football hooligan.

After yesterday's emergency meeting between Fifa officials a statement was released in which Fifa condemned the disturbance as an act of "barbaric violence".

Meanwhile, in Toulouse four English Category C hooligans expelled from France with a lifetime ban were named last night. Raymond Rafferty, 36, from Coventry, and Stephen Baker, 25, Stephen Fowler, 29, and Terrence Coughlin, 36, all from Birmingham were picked up by specialist police spotters. Another man, Maurice Woodward, from Rotherham, was last night due to be brought before magistrates in Toulouse to face charges relating to alleged violence in Marseilles.

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