Carnival mood resurfaces after night of scuffles

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The Independent Online

Cologne's international renown as a party city was put to the test yesterday as an estimated 70,000 fans arrived for England's final group match against Sweden.

The Rhineland metropolis, famed for its annual Mardi Gras carnival, was stretched to the limit as the visitors thronged the city centre alongside locals watching Germany's afternoon game against Ecuador.

Police estimated that there were 10,000 Swedes and 60,000 English supporters, around 30,000 of them expected to watch the game in a riverside fan park.

The facility in the Deutz neighbourhood across the river from the Old Town was decked in St George's flags and offered English commentary. But the deputy mayor of the city insisted it was open to all nationalities and authorities were not trying to segregate English and Germans.

Stephen Thomas, the senior British police officer in charge of the anti-hooligan operation in Germany, said that yesterday was the most testing day yet for Cologne police because of the highly charged atmosphere after the Germany game in Berlin and England's match.

He said he had been "disappointed" at the first outbreak of trouble involving England fans at the World Cup the previous night in the city. Six England fans at the centre of skirmishes with riot police which broke out in the Old Town around midnight have been banned indefinitely from Cologne. Sixteen officers were injured. "We saw the best of England supporters during the day and some of the worst in the evening," said Thomas, of Greater Manchester Police. "It is perhaps a reflection of how things have improved that I am disappointed."

A carnival atmosphere was in full swing by lunchtime yesterday. The main giant screen on the Heumarkt was thronged with locals watching Germany's match.

A small number of local fans went through their repertoire of light-hearted chants aimed at their visitors including "Ohne deutsche Autos werdet Ihr gar nicht hier", or "Without German cars you wouldn't even have got here".

The good-natured ribbing was reciprocated by a stag party from Nunthorpe, near Middlesbrough, wearing PVC Lederhosen. Groom-to-be Paul McGlynn, 28, said: "I am absolutely streaming. I'll probably lose half a stone by the end of the day."