And don't come back, continental papers tell the hordes of In-ger-land

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The Independent Online

For the "In-ger-land" shouting hordes and the Government in London that has so signally failed to control them, the response of the European media yesterday was a measure of scorn, a measure of condescending pity - and a unanimous red card.

For the "In-ger-land" shouting hordes and the Government in London that has so signally failed to control them, the response of the European media yesterday was a measure of scorn, a measure of condescending pity - and a unanimous red card.

Send home the lot of them, was the reaction of the Dutch paper Trouw, which noted that anyone who witnessed the recent events could only conclude that successive British governments have lost the battle against football hooliganism. "How else have hundreds of English hooligans been able to cross freely to Belgium and the Netherlands?"

And since the British authorities are apparently incapable of solving the problem, the paper said: "There's only one thing left, and that's to ban the England team from large European tournaments."

The press in Belgium - without the cannabis-selling cafes of co-hosts Holland, which may have helped to quieten down would-be vandals - was no less scathing. A threat to suspend England from the Euro 2000 tournament was "not enough," declared the French language daily La Derniere Heure, recommending an outright ban on the clubs and teams that produce the troublemakers.

And from Germany - no stranger to football-related violence - there was only sympathy. The German press had little quarrel with defeat on the field, but was scathing about the failure of the Blair government to keep the hooligans at home. Nor did the blossoming European Union help: "Apparently an international football event in Europe can still only function if old-style borders are restored," said the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Even so, Germany had managed to block many of its rowdiest hooligans. "The British didn't have comparably efficient border controls to do so."

Even in Switzerland, traditionally neutral and absent from Euro 2000, fears were expressed that the worst may be yet to come. "The Charleroi police said they were just happy that the town hadn't been laid waste," wrote the Basler Zeitung yesterday.

"But no one knows where and when the extremists will next run amok - in Brussels [yesterday] when Belgium plays Turkey, or [today] in Charleroi, or the day after... Just one thing is certain: you will never again be able to kid the Belgians that the posters are true, that Euro 2000 is a festival."

The darkest forebodings, however, came from Gazzetta dello Sport, mindful that England could face Italy this weekend in the very same stadium where 39, mostly Italian, supporters died in 1985 when Liverpool met Juventus in the European Cup final.

"In the lunatic mindset of these fans, there's no bigger thrill than routing the Italians after the Germans, the two defeated enemies of the Second World War," Italy's leading sports newspaper commented.

"Fifteen years on the problem hasn't been solved, an identical risk exists today. Special laws and extra powers for the police have isolated the hooligans in England; the violence has simply shifted to the national side and English clubs when they play abroad. And the British government - in contrast with other governments, notably in Germany - has been neither able nor willing to stop it."

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