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Friday, July 3, 1998 Published at 21:51 GMT 22:51 UK

World: Europe

Fears of neo-Nazi return to World Cup

German fans watching their team on TV in Frankfurt

Police in France's second city, Lyon, are preparing to receive thousands of German football fans, many of them believed to be neo-Nazi hooligans, for Saturday's World Cup quarter-final with Croatia.

The city authorities have already imposed an alcohol ban in a bid to prevent a repeat of the violence which marred Germany's game with Yugoslavia in Lens two weeks ago and left a French policeman fighting for his life.

It will be the first time in six games that an alcohol ban has been used in Lyon and extra police will also be on duty.

Links with far-right groups

German football hooligans have one of the worst reputations in European football and followers of the national team - in common with England - have frequently been accused of having links with far-right groups.

[ image: Pomo Röpke...
Pomo Röpke..."I like violence"
One of the troublemakers, Pomo Röpke, told a BBC correspondent in Frankfurt: "It is my hobby. I like violence."

Röpke, a heavily-tattooed hooligan who is on German police's category C list, said: "We try to represent our country and want to show them we are one of the best in Europe."

Fertile breeding ground for racism

Extreme right-wingers have found German football fans a fertile breeding ground for racist and xenophobic ideology.

[ image: The Internet has been used by far-right hooligans to co-ordinate violence]
The Internet has been used by far-right hooligans to co-ordinate violence
Franziska Hundseder, who has written many books on the neo-Nazis, says extremists have been utilising the Internet to co-ordinate violence at the World Cup.

She says: "The Internet was very useful for them. Skinheads and neo-nazis and hooligans were on the Internet saying 'Let's go to France, let's attack France'."

Sociologist Dr Andreas Heller has studied the gangs and says: "The way they organise their meetings is hierarchical.

"They have their leaders with the equipment and all that and then there are those with no brains, just fists."

Many ordinary football fans in Germany find the neo-Nazi element an embarrassment and the German football authorities are worried their violence will torpedo the country's bid to host the 2006 World Cup.

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