Hundreds of German police subdue 'hooligans' in training exercise for Euro 2024

STÜTZERBACH, Germany (AP) — An idyllic springtime morning in the sleepy village of Stützerbach was disturbed Tuesday with hundreds of German police taking on “soccer hooligans” in preparation for the European Championship.

Birds were chirping and golden sunshine was starting to warm a new day when a train of trouble arrived to shatter the peaceful scene at the village train station.

Some 200 trainee police officers were on board to play the role of violent soccer fans. They were met by local state police, who quickly called hundreds of federal police to assist as the situation was simulated toward getting out of hand.

The train’s walls shook as the “hooligans” rampaged inside, singing, chanting and cheering. They burst out of the train when the federal police arrived, setting off loud pyrotechnics that sent clouds of red and white smoke up to the clear blue sky.

Germany hosts the European Championship from June 14 to July 14, when security will be a priority with hundreds of thousands of fans expected for the 24-country soccer tournament.

“As police we have to be prepared because there’s the potential risk of hooligans or violent people. Today we use the chance to train for those circumstances, how to stop them, how to communicate with them, and also how to force them if they’ve done any trouble,” Thuringia police spokesman Karsten Täschner told The Associated Press. “The main goal of today’s practice is to see how the federal and the state police are cooperating together.”

Altogether around 600 police were involved in Tuesday’s training, including about 100 off-site officers and the 200 police trainees.

The police forbade any filming or taking photos from inside a sealed-off training area where officers processed the supposed troublemakers. They simulated identifying individuals, recording them, registering them, and issuing stadium and other location bans.

Police in riot gear waited outside the train while the “hooligans” were kept inside. They were taken out one at a time for processing. Police officers on both sides of an individual would grip the person by holding their hands in unnatural positions to prevent them escaping.

A police drone flew overhead to record the exercises.

“We will see what mistakes are made and learn from those,” said Täschner, who was careful not to divulge too many details of the procedures being practiced.

“We use modern techniques, like a super recognizer, special officers with extraordinary skills to detect people we are looking for especially,” Täschner said.

German police will be supported by international colleagues for the duration of the tournament. Täschner pointed out that they already cooperate “strongly” for Champions League and other international matches.

“With that knowledge and that experience, we’re in a good shape also for the European Championship,” he said.

Täschner acknowledged some problems of violence this season around games in Germany, particularly at lower-league matches, but said “99%” of supporters are peaceful and will just want to enjoy the tournament.

“Zero violence is our main target and a goal.” Täschner said. “We want to welcome everyone to join the tournament. We are open minded. But we are also prepared for that small number of people who come with a violent attitude.”


AP soccer:

Ciarán Fahey, The Associated Press