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Hooligans? What Hooligans?

Associated Press

One of England’s greatest soccer heroes says fan violence won’t derail the country’s bid to stage the World Cup in 2006.

Already facing Germany and South Africa in a vote to be taken in June 2000, England’s bidders have had to deal with the distraction of thugs wearing the flag and colors of their national team running round Marseille, Toulouse and Lens beating up local residents and police.

Bobby Charlton, who is on the team promoting England’s bid, believes the problem of English fans is frequently taken out of context. And he says FIFA knows that too.

“We can’t let a few who try to make a mark for their own personal reasons spoil it for the vast majority, the 99.99% who go there to enjoy the games and who always behave,” said the former Manchester United star, who was on the England team that won the 1966 World Cup. “Why should we let these people stop us trying to get the World Cup in 2006? I think FIFA appreciates that.”

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England held the 1996 European Championships with few crowd problems, and Charlton said that proved “we can organize a tournament without any major trouble from the fans.”


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