Football: FA calls off Berlin game: Venables' problem

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The Independent Online
TERRY VENABLES will name an England squad on Monday for what will now be nothing more than an elaborate training session after the Football Association confirmed yesterday it would withdraw from the friendly international with Germany which had been scheduled for Berlin on 20 April.

With rival political groups planning to use the game which coincided with the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birthday as a rallying point for demonstrations and counter- protests the FA executive committee decided there were 'unacceptable risks' in going ahead. An offer to stage the game at Wembley instead was rejected by the German federation.

The decision to pull out was supported by the new England coach even though Venables was disappointed to lose a prestige fixture. 'It would have been nice to see us in action against the world champions but from all the information that came in I believe it is not the right time for it,' he said.

'The hooligan era is behind us and we have had a good start with plenty of optimism and if things had gone wrong out there it would have spoiled it all. This was something that looked more organised, more nasty than the normal hooligan problem.'

Anxious that he cannot afford to waste any opportunity Venables will select a group of players and use the time for coaching and building on the spirit generated in his first game, the victory over Denmark last month. 'We will try and get the best out of what is a difficult situation. I will be talking to the clubs and I would hope to have a lot of the players I want involved.'

Venables said there could be a game arranged against a club side and it might be an opportune time to look at a few younger faces.

The FA stands to lose pounds 400,000 in television rights but said 'the safety and security of everybody concerned was paramount'. Apart from the threat of trouble from neo- Nazi groups and left-wing supporters opposed to them, there was also resistance from the main political parties in Germany and from trade unions who had sent faxes to Lancaster Gate asking that the match should not take place.

'We came to the conclusion that the risks were just too great,' the FA chairman, Sir Bert Millichip, said.

'We cannot answer the question as to why we were not told about the significance of this date earlier. Probably the Germans were as unaware of it as we were.'

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