German players threaten walkout if hooligans show

February 13, 2007

BERLIN -- The players and coach of German team FC Lokomotive Leipzig threatened Tuesday to walk off the field if hooligans that rampaged over the weekend show up at one of their matches.

About 800 fans of the county league team in Saxony attacked police and security personnel on Saturday. Police said Tuesday 39 officers and six fans were injured. Also, 21 police cars were vandalized.

"We have the right to leave the field if we see these rioters again in the stadium. We want to send out a signal," Leipzig captain Holger Krauss said.

Saxony's soccer officials on Monday canceled 60 matches scheduled for this weekend from state level down to local leagues as a result of Saturday's rioting. They called it an act of solidarity with police and a way to call attention to soccer violence.

The fans in Leipzig and Dresden, two cities in the state of Saxony, have instigated some of the worst cases of the fan violence in Germany since it hosted last year's World Cup.

German clubs have been warned they could end up playing their games in empty stadiums if fans weren't controlled. In troubled areas like Saxony, soccer matches could be banned from their arenas permanently.

"It can't go on like this," Saxony interior minister Albrecht Buttolo said. "I would rather see empty stadiums than a dead police officer."

Soccer officials and police believe the Leipzig hooligans were inspired by the Feb. 2 rioting in Italy that led to the death of a police officer. At the match between Catania and Palermo, 100 people were injured. All professional soccer games were suspended for a week.

"A situation like Italy can't be tolerated here," said Konrad Freiberg, the head of the national police union.

Buttolo promised to send district attorneys to the match, who could issue arrest warrants on the spot if violence erupted at a soccer stadium.

The police union was upset that five men were taken into custody at the Leipzig rioting, then released because officers lacked an arrest warrant.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press