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Sunday, June 21, 1998 Published at 20:49 GMT 21:49 UK

Sport: Football

Policeman in coma after fans rampage

French police pin down a German fan during trouble in Lens

A French policeman is in a coma after being attacked by German soccer fans in Lens before Sunday's World Cup match with Yugoslavia.

BBC correspondents report: "Police say they were sober, organised and highly mobile thugs."
The uniformed policeman is thought to have been attacked after becoming isolated from colleagues.

It is believed he was repeatedly hit around the head with a metal or wooden signpost outside the Felix Bollaert stadium.

He then lay unconscious with blood pouring from a head wound before being flown by helicopter to the nearby city of Lille.

A BBC correspondent described the policeman's injuries as the most serious to have resulted from violence in the World Cup so far.

He said the man was "hovering between life and death" in hospital.

Organised violence

[ image: Fans threw bottles and chairs at police]
Fans threw bottles and chairs at police
"There were a lot of incidents after the match, several hundred German hooligans moved in and started smashing and tearing down the perimeter security fencing," said Daniel Cadoux, Prefect for the Pas de Calais region.

"It was not like in Marseille where they were supporters drunk on alcohol.

"These were sober, organised, mobile thugs using communications to disperse and regroup rapidly," he said

Police arrested 10 German fans before the match, and up to 40 afterwards.

The trouble started when police were alerted that neo-Nazis had arrived in Lens and had converged on cafes around the railway station.

When officers arrived the supporters began throwing chairs and beer cans at them.

A journalist was also hurt when they were set on by a group of around 50 fans behind a security barrier.

Germany came from two goals down to force a draw with Yugoslavia.

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