Cops Hold Anti-Hooligan Exercise Before World Cup

Polish and German law enforcement officials gathered Thursday to prepare for what many fear may be a World Cup marked by violence.

Play-acting Polish soccer fans waved red-and-white flags from a train carriage as it pulled into a border-town station. They then start throwing things at police.

The officers charged into the car, subdued the troublemakers and led them away in handcuffs.

CountryWatch: Poland

Law enforcement officials on both sides of the border are determined to show both the public and any potential hooligans that they will be in control when the World Cup kicks off on June 9 with games in 12 cities across Germany.

Much speculation has focused on hooligans from new EU member Poland. In other European countries, thousands of hooligans have been registered in databases that allow authorities to block them from stadiums and travel abroad.

Yet many Poles, including police, believe the anxiety about Polish hooligans is exaggerated and stems from a fear of the unknown.

The last time Poland played in a World Cup hosted in Europe was in Spain in 1986 — when Poles lived under communism and were prevented from traveling in large numbers to attend matches. The 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan was too far away, and too expensive, for many fans to attend.

Today, with Poland in the EU, and Germany just across the border, more Poles than ever before are expected to fill the streets and stadiums of cities hosting World Cup matches.

But Polish police vow they are doing everything they can to prevent violence and some Polish officers will be assisting German police during the tournament, unarmed but with powers to make arrests.

While officials acknowledge Poland does have unruly fans, they maintain that misbehavior is confined to local rivalries, and that only 300 out of 8,000 annual matches have been disrupted.

Krzysztof Hajdas, a national police spokesman, told The Associated Press that fans of Poland's national team have no history of causing trouble.

Hajdas also said Polish authorities have informed the Germans about known hooligans.

"We have also passed on a list of people who have been banned by court from entering stadiums," Hajdas said.

Of the 60 Polish police officers going to Germany for the World Cup, about 12 will act as spotters, watching activity among Polish fans. A larger group will be patrolling the streets in joint patrols with German policemen.