WORLD CUP ’90 : Hooligans Can’t Crack Defense : Violence: English trouble-makers take on police in Cagliari, but are stymied by quick responses.


Italian police 1, English hooligans 0.

Thus ended Sunday the crucial round of the long-awaited, heavily advertised Battle of Sardinia--violent, beer-fueled street theater as a lamentable companion of soccer’s World Cup.

Stay tuned, however. There’s more to come. The same two teams will meet again on Cagliari’s streets Thursday.

“We haven’t finished yet. Nobody is thinking about relaxing our alert,” a police spokesman said Sunday.


“Saturday’s game had the potential for being the most dangerous. Now that it’s over that doesn’t mean we can sit back and relax,” said Graham Newsom, a spokesman for the British Ministry of Sport.

The rock-throwing hooligans started strongly before Saturday night’s 0-0 tie between England and the Netherlands, storming a police barricade in an attempt to tangle with peaceable Dutch fans.

After the match, they became surly, growling but eminently movable objects shunted out of harm’s way by an irresistible force that stopped the hooligans in their tracks with tear gas and baton charges.

The winners, some 3,000 members of three national police forces, basked in international applause Sunday.

“I’m grateful to the police for their swift, tough and decisive action, which defused this situation and prevented other incidents--avoiding serious confrontation between English and Dutch supporters,” said Colin B. Moynihan, Britain’s minister for sport, in a statement here Sunday.

The losers licked their bruises, flexed their tattoos, and consoled themselves with refreshments when a ban on the sale of alcohol expired at 8:00 a.m. Sunday.


One hooligan came in exactly at 8, tapping his watch to say that it was time. “He bought a two-liter mug of draft beer,” said a barman at one waterfront Cagliari spa. By midday, there were knots of reeling English stalwarts along streets where the first skirmishes began a week ago.

The next flash point is expected to come Thursday, when England seeks to assure a second-round berth in a decisive match against stubborn Egypt, which tied Ireland, 0-0, in Palermo. After four Group F matches, all four teams are in a dead heat, but no more than three can advance to the Cup’s second round.

Between now and Thursday, neither police nor hooligans are likely to change tactics for their final encounter in Sardinia.

The hooligans, whose rampages have made English soccer an international scandal, can be expected to come well-oiled, stoked to violence by a few skillful organizers.

Of some 6,500 English supporters in Sardinia for the Netherlands game, there were 600 to 1,000 in the column that challenged police Saturday on the road to the stadium.

Police apparently knew from intelligence reports that trouble was planned, but not legitimate fans in the crowd who were caught in the middle when it came. “The majority in the group would not have known something was supposed to happen,” Newsom said.


“The orchestrated incident before the match was a sickening reflection that a mindless minority of thugs can bring English football into international disrepute,” Moynihan said.

The strategy of Italian police, coached by hooligan-wise British police, is to strike fast and hard with heavy battalions at the first sign of trouble.

A spokesman in police headquarters here Sunday, who declined to be identified, expressed satisfaction with Saturday’s results.

“They came with rocks--looking for trouble. We relied on a very strong show of force and a quick reaction. It was over very fast.”

Said Newsom: “Early intervention avoided worse trouble.”

Police detained about 500 English fans after the disturbance and checked their identities against the list of known hooligans.

Those who could produce game tickets were shepherded to the stadium under heavy escort. About 100 without tickets were turned back to downtown Cagliari and warned not to reassemble in large groups, Newsom said.


There were no incidents with Dutch fans. “They have a bad reputation, but they have behaved well as a group in the last few years,” said Lex Mellink, a spokesman for the Dutch police here.

At the request of British and Dutch police, long lines of no-fare buses hustled up to 10,000 Dutch supporters directly from the stadium gates to out-of-town hotels and camp sites or to chartered planes and ferries taking them to Sicily, where the Netherlands plays its final first-round match against Ireland on Thursday.

“The fact that there were no incidents after the game was because of the way it was policed,” Newsom said.

Italian police said they arrested five English fans Saturday, one of whom had a broken leg. They will be tried today on charges of vandalism and resisting arrest.

A sixth hooligan is charged with theft in an incident not related to the disturbance, and five others face charges of drunkenness in Cagliari.

In all, there are 31 English fans in Sardinian jails awaiting trial. Three others are serving short sentences, a fourth was convicted and expelled and eight have received suspended sentences.


British and Italian authorities expect a core of 5,000 English fans will remain scattered across Sardinia until after Thursday’s game.

Then, depending if and how England advances, the fans--and the hooligans among them--will follow their team to one of four mainland game sites: Genoa, Milan, Bologna or Turin. That is not good news to officials there: All four cities are easier to reach for low-budget English fanatics than the island Sardinia.