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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 October, 2003, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Tough game spotting England fans

By Neil Bennett
BBC correspondent in Istanbul

The toughest game in Istanbul this weekend has been spotting an English football fan.

They are few and far between as security measures to prevent violence amongst fans at the Euro 2004 qualifying match appear to be working.

In normal circumstances, up to 20,000 England supporters would have been expected to travel to one of the world's most intoxicating cities for such a dramatic and decisive football match.

Police in Istanbul
Turkish police are ready to repel English fans
But the English Football Association decided to avoid any potential dangers from such a heady mix by refusing its ticket allocation.

Every effort was made to deter fans from even travelling to Istanbul.

It was then up to a few determined individuals to see whether they could outwit the security system designed to stop them from getting into the country at all.

All of the noise from outside the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium on Saturday afternoon came from Turkish fans.

Disguises

The handful of football enthusiasts from England who did manage to get round the arrangements were soon detected.

Red replica Turkey shirts were not sufficient disguise for two Newcastle United fans who wasted 150 each on their black market tickets.

Farmary and friends at Heathrow

They were stopped at the gates to the ground and will have to watch the game from a community centre set up by the Turkish police.

They'll be joined by a middle-aged couple whose choice of Southampton away strip was unwise for anyone trying to avoid being spotted at the ground.

The most effective effort so far from any English fans seems to have come from a group of four who flew to the Turkish capital Ankara then took the overnight train to Istanbul and arrived in the city early on Saturday morning.

They were confident of getting tickets on the black market and one of them said he would be armed with a fake Swedish identity card which he said he had copied from the internet.

Deported

Forty-five England fans were heading back home after they were detained at Istanbul airport on Friday afternoon.

They had arrived from various airports around Europe but technically did not even make it on to Turkish soil because they were stopped by immigration officials before passing through the checkpoints.

So far, the plans by the British police and their Turkish counterparts to stop significant numbers of English fans from travelling to Turkey appear to have been an almost total success.

During the build-up to the game the atmosphere on the streets of Istanbul has been warm and friendly to anyone from England, but England's players are set to have a very different experience on the field at the stadium on Saturday night.




SEE ALSO:
Fans sent home from Turkey
09 Oct 03  |  UK
England team under wraps
10 Oct 03  |  England
Beckham claims crisis is over
10 Oct 03  |  Football
Eriksson warns England fans
07 Sep 03  |  England


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