PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 June, 2006, 12:00am


So where have all the hooligans gone? Having watched two England games, and then gone out drinking with the fans in Frankfurt and Nuremburg, I have still not witnessed any trouble so far.

All the pre-tournament expectations that Germany 2006 would be a tinderbox have so far not materialised. The much-maligned English fans have been a picture of decorum. There might have been the odd trouble spot and troublemaker, but so far there have been no signs of organised violence.

Is this because things are going England's way right now? They have won both their games, beating Paraguay 1-0 and Trinidad and Tobago 2-0. They have ensured their place in the second round. Wayne Rooney is back. David Beckham is looking good. So is his wife Posh, and the girlfriends of some of the other players, especially beanpole Peter Crouch.

There seems to be a feel-good glow surrounding England, and this has possibly translated into the good mood pervading right through the army of English fans, easily the largest group of supporters in Germany.

They were rocking to the music of Dire Straits - can you believe it - at the Shamrock Bar in the heart of Nuremberg the other night. Sultans of Swing was being played by the deejay and the English fans, who in the past might have turned up their noses at this middle-of-the-road music, were lustily belting out the number.

Outside in the streets, whole families sporting England colours, were standing around singing everything from God Save the Queen to Steve Gerrard, Gerrard sung to the tune of Que Sera, Sera.

Fathers walked around with their sons, arm in arm. Mums and daughters were sharing a pint. If this was an exercise in bonding, then I predict that these families will be strong and united in the years to come.

There were no signs of hooligans or hooliganism. The German police, in large numbers, kept a respectful distance and most often with a smile on their faces, watched the English fans have fun. Some of the braver sons of England even began to chat up the German policewomen.

Steve, from Liverpool, paid a warm tribute to the German police and their approach. 'They have been very good and have treated us with respect. I remember the 1998 World Cup in France when the French policemen treated us as if we were all criminals,' he said.

'When we got of the train stations in France, we were greeted with policemen with truncheons and huge dogs tugging at the leash. I didn't go to the last World Cup in Korea and Japan where I heard the policemen were very polite. But it has been good here,' added Steve.

Yes. It has been good so far. But what happens if England should lose a game? If this happens in their next match, it will not have much of an impact because they have already qualified for the second round. But what if it happens in the knockout stages? Will the fans go on the rampage then?

Steve says it's unlikely. He believes the strict screening undertaken by the British police before the World Cup has kept the troublesome elements at home. More than 3,000 passports were confiscated from known hooligans.

But there is a cloud on the horizon - the possibility of England meeting Germany in the second round.

It would be a shame if the hosts and England were to meet so early in the tournament. The World Cup needs both these teams to go all the way, at least until the semi-finals. They draw the biggest crowds, the loudest crowds, who give the tournament an electric atmosphere.

So let's hope both England and Germany top their respective groups and avoid an early meeting.

Number of the Day: 2,705,197 - The total number of fans who watched the 64 games during the 2002 World Cup. Organisers believe this number will be eclipsed this time.


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