Letter: Football fans abroad

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Sir: I am alarmed at Tony Blair's insistence that he is entitled to an explanation of the events in Rome last Saturday from the Italians.

The chief objection on this side of the divide appears to be the refusal of the host country to accept lock, stock and beer barrel the transportation of the traditional English Saturday night to their streets. Further, the nanny-statism that insists on wet nursing people, sheeplike, through football matches in this country has not yet transferred itself abroad.

Free expression is still allowed at sporting occasions in Italy. This does require people to turn up early to a game, at least attempt to have some understanding of where they are going (a tiny bit of knowledge of the language, perish the thought, can help) and be aware of the items that may not be acceptable for carriage into the ground (anything you can throw or light a fire with). In return they are allowed to create a bit of atmosphere and enjoy a lively and trouble-free experience. Step out of line, however,and the carabinieri have but one tactic - quell it as swiftly as possible with a show of force. It may be right, it may be wrong but it works for them.

As a football lover who intends to travel to France for next year's competition I find the whole thing disturbing. The Italians are normally the most amenable of people, particularly where the British are concerned. The French are likely to take a much harder line.

MICHAEL KILLIN

Woking, Surrey

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