Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'English Disease' Outbreak Follows Bitter Loss

LONDON -- Hundreds of English soccer fans went on the rampage in central London and other areas of Britain on Thursday, fighting running battles with police, overturning and burning cars and smashing windows.


The rioting, the first outbreak of "English disease" (hooliganism) since the European soccer championship started on June 8, erupted after England lost its semifinal 6-5 on penalties to traditional rivals Germany on Wednesday night.


London police said they had arrested 196 people. Thirty people, including two police officers, ended up in the hospital after the riot, probably the worst disturbances in central London for six years. But no one was badly injured.


Riot police rushed to Trafalgar Square and adjacent parts of central London as gangs of youths raced through the area, throwing bottles and breaking windows.


They repeatedly baton charged the troublemakers, many of whom had been drinking heavily in local pubs while watching the game on television.


A Russian student was stabbed in what police called a "vicious and unprovoked attack" in Sussex, southern England, after he was approached by a gang and asked if he was German.


The seventeen-year-old student, Andre Mokhart, was seriously ill in the hospital.


"What we have seen in Trafalgar Square is pure hooliganism. You can't put this down to high spirits. This has nothing to do with soccer," said police Commander Tony Rowe.


Police video operators and photographers were out in force and a spokesman said he was confident that those caught on film would be tracked down and arrested.


"The operation was in fact successful because we managed to contain the trouble to Trafalgar Square and a couple of surrounding streets and did not let it spread to other parts of the city," he said by telephone.


The London violence started as soon as England missed their final penalty but did not involve attacks on German fans and there was little evidence the mayhem had been planned.


"It's a shame that the English fans are behaving like this, but the aggression doesn't seem to be against us but against the police," said Peter Schulle, 22, from Hamburg.


Police had in any case been bracing themselves for trouble because similar outbreaks of hooliganism followed England's defeat in a penalty shootout to Germany in the 1990 World Cup.


Violence erupted elsewhere in the country as drunken fans vented their anger at England's defeat. Almost half Britain's population of 60 million were estimated to have watched the game on television.


In Reading, west of the capital, police said there had been many reports of gangs running through the streets, smashing car windscreens and shop windows.


More than 300 fans rampaged through the center of Bedford, north of London, looting shops and smashing windows.


Commentators united to condemn the violence, saying it could sully the memory of a heroic performance.