By Jens Todt in Dortmund
Fighting amongst drunken German and Polish fans in Dortmund for Wednesaday night's Group A clash left the city center covered in shards of broken glass and trash. It was the first larger outbreak of hooligan violence since the World Cup started last week.
But a massive police presence eventually got the situation under control. "We're talking about a dimension of police deployment that likely exceeds anything ever seen before in Dortmund," the city's chief of police Hans Schulze told reporters. Thousands of police were on duty, official numbers were not given.
Even normal fans behaved "especially aggressively as if they were just waiting for a reason to riot," said Schulze. The problems started roughly an hour before kickoff, confirming the fears of many that had predicted violence before the Germany-Poland match.
Only a bottle's throw away from where 20,000 people had gathered peacefully to watch the match on a big outdoor screen, the police identified a few hundred German troublemakers with known violence-prone hooligans among them. After police surrounded them they responded by throwing chairs, bottles and launching fireworks. Police were also called to several other parts of the city to put down unrest and end fist fights. In total, 429 people were arrested. "Half were German and the other half Polish," said Schulze.
No serious injuries were reported and shortly after the match ended, the city center rapidly emptied of fans as a summer thunderstorm brought rain. "It's just what I'd hoped for," said one police officer. "Rain is the best guardian after all."
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