Swiss police to track football hooligans

Rival fans clash at the Swiss Cup final in 2002 Keystone Archive

Switzerland is sending a special anti-hooligan unit to Portugal to help the authorities crack down on any violent Swiss fans at this month’s European Championships.

This content was published on June 4, 2004

The Swiss are due to play at least three matches – including one against England – and police are concerned about the potential threat of violence.

While anti-hooligan experts say 99 per cent of Swiss football fans are “good guys”, they are not taking any chances with the remaining one per cent.

“We already know these people and will try to pick them out of the crowds and support the Portuguese police in isolating them,” Eric Minuz, a “hooligan spotter” from Zurich police's criminal intelligence unit told swissinfo.

Minuz, along with a second spotter from Zurich and a third from Basel, will travel to Portugal with the unit’s team leader, police liaison officer Roland Schibli.

The unit will be deployed at all games involving the Swiss national team, who are due to play Croatia on June 13, England four days later and France on June 21.

Hooligan violence

Schibli said the three police spotters would be deployed around the stadiums and would also identify themselves to known troublemakers.

“When people know they have been identified, they feel less comfortable [about committing violence], especially in a foreign place,” said Schibli.

The involvement of Swiss police in Portugal reflects ongoing worries about football-related violence within Switzerland.

Earlier this month, Basel football fans went on a stadium rampage in Thun after their team clinched the national title.

There have also been regular media reports in recent months of post-match battles between fans, especially those from Basel and Zurich.

Minuz estimates there are between 300 and 400 football hooligans in Switzerland but says their allegiance is usually to a local club rather than the national team.

“We don’t have a national scene as they have in England, Germany, the Netherlands, or even in Italy,” said Minuz. “So we don’t know how many to expect in Portugal.”

“High risk” England

However, Minuz fears individual gangs of up to 20 fans will treat Euro 2004 as an opportunity to “prove” themselves against rivals from other countries.

“I think the England match is a high risk game… because some will look at it as an opportunity to fight the English guys,” said Schibli.

He added that the typical Swiss hooligan was a thrill seeker aged between 15 and 35.

“He wants to be a man; he wants to be the tough guy on the scene, to show who's number one,” he said.

Although all three of Switzerland’s group games have the potential for trouble, much will depend on how the other teams perform and whether the Swiss look like reaching the next round.

“The France game could also be a problem, but that is pure speculation at this stage,” said Schibli.

No travel bans

Swiss police admit they are relatively powerless to stop known hooligans from travelling to Portugal.

Unlike the authorities in England, they are unable to impose travel bans on high-risk individuals.

The British government has announced that up to 2,500 known hooligans would be prevented from travelling to Portugal.

“We don’t have a law that entitles us to do that,” said Schibli. “We have to let them out of Switzerland - unless they don’t have a passport.

“And they will only be sent back, to my knowledge, if they break the law in Portugal."

Nose for trouble

However, the spotter team believe they are well prepared to identify potential troublemakers.

“It’s an intuitive job, but you can spot a hooligan from 100 metres away,” said Minuz.

“It’s the way they move, the way they hold themselves, even the clothes they wear. Something as simple as the type of shirt a person has on,” he said.

“I guess it’s like when you go to a classical concert,” he added. “You can always tell the people who don’t want to be there. They’re not interested in what’s happening on stage.

“It’s the same with a football hooligan. They’re not focused on the field. Their attention is elsewhere.”

swissinfo, Jacob Greber in Zurich

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