Praise for the affable, smiling Anglais

World Cup: Toulouse braces itself for the English invasion as police officer left in a coma after Lens clashes
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The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S UNPOPULAR football fans earned backing from an unlikely quarter yesterday - the French media.

In spite of the rioting that took place in Marseilles last week, the people of Toulouse have given a warm welcome to genuine fans who have travelled not for trouble, but for football.

The highest praise for the real supporters came from La Depeche, the leading regional newspaper. Beneath a headline which read: "You could even see children smiling ..." reporter Philippe Lauga wrote: "The English have arrived and, happily, the town has not been taken over by psychosis, even if a lot of people will be staying at home on Monday.

"Yesterday, you could bump into some very English England fans - civilised, affable and smiling, the kind of English who invented humour, football and stadiums without fences, who prefer claret to lager, are cool-headed not hot-headed and who, from Byron to Cantona, have always venerated poets.

"The hooligans do exist and disorder could break out at any moment. But, knowing that it is a matter of just a small minority of supporters, we can have confidence in the forces of law and order, who have been working to prepare for any trouble for some time now.

"It is a weekend of risk, but there is no fear in the town. The people of Toulouse have realised that not all England fans are hooligans."

However, not everyone is quite so happy with the arrival of the English. Local authorities have ordered all city centre restaurants and bars to shut at 11pm - two hours earlier than usual - with the threat of fines of up to pounds 1,500 for every hour they stay open beyond the curfew.

Bar owners have been told that if they do not shut at 11pm then their insurance cover will not pay out in the case of trouble. And the police - who have told their officers to walk around in groups of four for their own safety - have warned that they will take their time to come to the aid of late-opening proprietors.

Prostitutes, too, are unhappy. "The Japanese men that come here are all very gentlemanly but the Englishmen have caused us much trouble," said Dominique, 40, one of several women who work on Boulevard de Strasbourg. The shutting of the bars is bad for business," she said. "I have lost a lot of money this week"