England fans are shot as clashes erupt in Zurich

Swiss police use rubber bullets to disperse rioting supporters
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The Independent Online

Five English football fans were seriously injured yesterday, with three shot, in violent clashes in Zurich ahead of England's match with Liechtenstein.

Five English football fans were seriously injured yesterday, with three shot, in violent clashes in Zurich ahead of England's match with Liechtenstein.

The men, aged 32, 37 and 38, suffered gunshot wounds during disturbances in the Swiss city's old town in the early hours. The Home Office said it was not clear who had fired the live ammunition but ruled out local police who earlier in the evening had fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse rioting fans.

Two other Britons, aged 38 and 42, were also taken to hospital, with stab wounds.

A spokesman for the Zurich police said several shots were heard at about 1am close to the Calypso Bar and a nearby food stall. The men with bullet wounds had been shot in the legs. The 38-year-old was believed to have been shot several times. Yesterday, they were having surgery. Fighting also led to the arrests of 25 England fans, as up to 800 supporters arrived in Switzerland on their way to Liechtenstein for the Euro 2004 qualifier game.

The rioting took British police by surprise. Ron Hogg, the UK police chief liaising with the Liechtenstein authorities, said: "A hundred English fans were in a street fight with Swiss police. Most of those arrested are not known to us but we will seek banning orders against all those arrested when they return to the UK. It is a real concern that there is a new generation of hooligans coming through."

On the eve of the game, there was little trouble in Liechtensteinitself. At the Old Castle Inn, noisy but peaceful England fans chanted: "I'm English till I die, I'm English till I die, I know I am, I'm sure I am, I'm English till I die."

The setting, with snow-capped mountains and the prince's medieval castle at the top of the hill, was magical. But Julie Andrews it wasn't. Hundreds of England fans had streamed into the capital, Vaduz, knowing their chances of getting to see the game were slim. "We go to every away game," one said. It is a way of accumulating points from the official England supporters club; the more points fans get the better their chances of being allocated tickets for Euro 2004 in Portugal, assuming England qualify.

Many, perhaps the majority, had no tickets. "We booked flights and hotels last August," said a fan. "We thought the game was going to be shifted to the big stadium in Zurich. If we didn't come we'd just lose it all. It's a couple of days out, isn't it? I was offered a ticket by a tout for £225 but that's ridiculous. I'd pay £100 but no more."

Most worrying to the British authorities was the fact that, while two known hooligans were turned back in England, all those arrested in Zurich were "new" faces.

Liechtenstein is one of the most orderly parts of Europe; it abolished its army in 1868, and, until 10 years ago, had no jail. In the run-up to yesterday's match it struggled to prepare for the English onslaught. Vaduz has 70 regular police plus 31 weekend auxiliaries, but yesterday there were said to be 1,000 police on the tidy streets, guarding the art museum, the modern sculptures, and the many banks. Reinforcements reportedly came from the Tyrol region of Austria, where police are experienced in battling the notorious local skinheads. Yesterday, police, also with officers from Switzerland, patrolled in bullet-proof vests, cradling machine guns. Two water cannon stood by. "We are very panicked by the arrival of you English," said a local in the Old Castle Inn.

Security calculations were complicated by rumours that thousands of anti-war demonstrators were expected in Vaduz. There was nervous talk, too, of German skinheads arriving for a reunion with their English chums. Troops of theSwiss army were seen around the football stadium, but no controls had been set up at the border.

*Senior police fear there will be violent clashes involving English hooligans on Wednesday when Turkey play England at the 51,000-seat Stadium of Light in Sunderland. Officers believe some Leeds United fans favour rekindling the feud with the Turks that has run since 2000 when two Leeds fans were killed in Istanbul before a match against SK Galatasaray. Thousands of Turkey fans living in Britain are expected to go to Sunderland for the Euro 2004 championship qualifier.