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Parties not clashes as Germany face Turkey

SoccerNews in Bundesliga, European Championships 25 Jun 2008

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Germans and the country's huge Turkish minority were out in force on Wednesday ahead of their Euro 2008 clash, but the atmosphere was carnival-like and police expected no major disturbances.

German cities and towns were a sea of flags from both countries as fans headed singing, cheering and beeping their car horns to large public public viewing areas to watch the game beamed live from Basel from 8.45 pm (1845 GMT).

Thousands of police were deployed across the country to ensure that the mix of rival fans, beer and summer sunshine does not become too volatile during the match — and particularly afterwards.

“I think that we can win, I reckon it will be 2-1 to the Turks,” predicted Cagatay, an 18-year-old Berliner of Turkish origin waving a red flag with a white crescent and star in central Berlin.

In the capital, home to 120,000 people of Turkish origin among a population of 3.4 million, authorities said 1,500 police including reinforcements from four other states would be on the streets.

Although the country was awash in German and Turkish flags — and sometimes one of each flapping from the same balcony or car — police said they expected little more than a few scuffles.

“We have no indication that there will be trouble,” a police spokesman told AFP.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble saw the match as a test of the peaceful, but sometimes tense, relations between Germans and Turks living in the country.

“Let not only the best team win on Wednesday but also German-Turkish friendship,” he wrote in the Berlin tabloid B.Z.

The two top selling newspapers in Germany and Turkey — Bild and Hurriyet — issued a joint call for calm in their Wednesday issues, saying soccer was too important to fight over.

“German-Turkish friendship will be in first place today, regardless of who continues on to the final,” the editors, Ertugrul Ozkok and Kai Diekmann, wrote. “We want to see Germans and Turks partying together!”

In Munich, 300 uniformed officers will keep the revelry in check, a third of them outside the Olympic stadium where 30,000 people will watch the game via satellite.

Police said things were “relatively calm” in the southern city but said they would keep a close eye on the hordes of fans.

“What we fear the most is if Germany lose and a few take out their frustration on the Turks,” a spokesman said.

In the business capital Frankfurt, 8,000 people are expected at Wedau Stadium to follow the match, watched over by 200 police.

Authorities in Hamburg and Cologne, which both have large Turkish minorities, would not comment on the deployment Wednesday but a police spokesman in Hamburg predicted “a peaceful and happy” night.

Germany has revived the wildly popular public viewing areas set up two years ago when the country hosted the World Cup.

Some 500,000 people were expected alone at Berlin's “Fan Mile” stretching from the Brandenburg Gate where giant screens have been erected to show the match, including one measuring 80 square metres (860 square feet).

But bottles and fireworks — normally essential accessories for the soccer fan — have been banned and 450 security guards will be inspecting handbags and backpacks.

Much has been made in the German press of Turks' divided loyalties ahead of the match, even among third- and fourth-generation immigrants.

“We will know a bit more about how we are doing on tolerance, acceptance and respect tonight, regardless of who wins,” Berlin's centre-left Tagesspiegel wrote in an front-page editorial.

The left-leaning Tageszeitung said it was odd Germans should wonder why the nearly three million Turks and people of Turkish descent in their midst supported Turkey and not their country of residence.

“Immigrants of Turkish-origin represent the biggest group, that is why they stand out,” it said. “They are not that different from other minorities — certainly not in their soccer patriotism.”

While some Turks said it was time Turkey's upstart team taught the Germans a lesson on the pitch, others said they would be cheering no matter who emerged victorious on Wednesday.

Berlin housewife Kadriye Gakan said she would be waving the Turkish crescent and star but told Bild: “In any case, there will be one of my two favourite teams in the final.”

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