Riot raises call for ban on British teams

The 10 minutes that resulted in 38 deaths and hundreds of injured soccer fans here was something many had feared for years but hardly anyone in Europe was actually prepared for. Much of Western Europe was plunged in a wave of bitterness and recrimination in the wake of the riot in ``Block Z'' at Heisel Stadium here Wednesday night.

Since then a steady stream of criticism has been unleashed at British fans, Belgian police, and organizers of the European Cup Championship.

The first noticeable reaction came from some of the television announcers of the 80 countries that broadcast the game. Many expressed their consternation and shame and loudly criticized the violence by British ``hooligans.''

They predicted that soccer officials in West Germany, Belgium, and elsewhere will move to ban British teams from such international contests.

In the eerie aftermath at the stadium many subdued spectators supported imposing this ban. But many also blamed the Belgian soccer organizers and the police.

They alleged that barriers between British and Italian fans should have been much more substantial than the wire fence. Many spectators and commentators also charged that Belgian police had been too few in number and too passive when reinforced. Those in the staduim were quickly overrun by the fans from Liverpool.

``British police would have cleaned that up in two minutes,'' remarked a youthful British fan on his way home at the Brussels train station.

Responding to such criticism, Belgian Interior Minister Charles-Ferdinand Nothomb told journalists that investigations of prior soccer violence revealed that it takes place during or after the match, but not before the game, as happened this time.

He added that as a result, the largest police force ever assembled in Belgium for a game was largely outside the stadium controlling the entry of the 60,000 spectators.

The section that became the battleground was supposed to have been a no man's land filled by neutral Belgian ticketholders. But it turns out that many of them had resold their tickets to Italian fans at a fat profit.

``Whenever such a tragedy occurs, people ask whether enough was done,'' Nothomb added. ``Everyone agrees there should have been more manpower. [The violence] should have been predicted but it was unpredictable. Everyone was surprised such an accident took place before a match.''

Nothomb ordered a full investigation. He said he does not want to turn the country into a police state for soccer games but has ordered a ban on future contests involving British clubs in Belgium until he is sure British and European soccer officials can guarantee security.

It is expected that other countries, and perhaps even the entire European Football Federation, will follow suit. -- 30 --

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