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Tuesday, 20 June, 2000, 22:13 GMT 23:13 UK
England on best behaviour
England fans
Children playing football replaced any sign of trouble
Sport Online's Pete Lansley sees a far different scene in Charleroi before the match with Romania than what he witnessed at the weekend.

Once again, the Place Charles II in the centre of Charleroi was packed with England supporters.

The sun, once more, beat down on hot sweaty bodies. Again, the floor was patchily soaked.

But the contrast in scenes three hours before the kick-off of Tuesday's game with Romania with that before the nightmares of the Germany game three days earlier could not have been more marked.

Gone was the eerie malevolence of "fans" hovering in wait of any erratic movement from Germans and police, as if waiting for the broken-bottle signal for arms to be taken up again.

Gone were the apprehensive expressions on the faces of genuine football supporters, shocked by the dereliction of morality.

Gone were the water cannons, the showering this time spilling from the fountain.

Return to normality


Police
It was far quieter for the Charleroi police

It might have been short-lived on Saturday, provoked to a degree by over-the-top policing and exaggerated back home by the irresponsible looping of footage time after time to give the impression of continual warfare.

But it was still a nightmare.

On Tuesday a press conference was held at the Stade Du Pays media centre with the mayor and police spokeswoman Madame Cleemput expressing their satisfaction with the return of normality before a football game.

In the square, meanwhile, old battered footballs swung up high in the air as a game mildly took place among 2000 England supporters. Police, thankfully in 32 degrees of heat, did not wear full riot gear.


England fans
Richard Keys mixes with England fans

At 1800 local time, the odd pint from a plastic glass was accidentally toppled but Blue Peter presenters staged their own kickabout with young fans.

Even TV presenter Richard Keys felt safe enough to walk around having his picture taken with supporters.

A couple of hours before, one eye witness told Sport Online: "It's all quiet, very much like it was before the game with Portugal in Eindhoven.

"The police are much less in your face than they were when it all got so ridiculous on Saturday.

"It's all so much more mellow and normal. It's almost too hot to do anything anyway." Police reported only one early arrest and that for a Belgian.

Ominous sight

There was the odd ominous sight. Sport Online went up to chat to a couple of Liverpool fans, clad in the old cream away shirt, and heard in Dutch accents that they were hoping to find a beer with the boys.

Underneath their collars, the luminous orange necklaces attached to photographers' media cards could be seen.

In the police press cabin, a notice reported that on Friday evening last, a man claiming to be a Dutch photographer offered money in exchange for riots.

The man promised an English supporter a whole evening's free drink if they would start a fight in the pub where they were. Investigations are proceeding.

It is hard enough for England to cope with their own thugs.

Kevin Keegan's team - and its real fans - do not need anyone else's.

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See also:

19 Jun 00 | England
Expulsion threat splits rivals
19 Jun 00 | England
Keegan urges fans to stay calm
20 Jun 00 | England
Keegan pleads for calm
20 Jun 00 | England
Charleroi ready for England fans
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