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After the disturbances with German fans during the first leg in Deurne at the end of September, it seemed as if the return match in Frankfurt would become more pleasant. The local authorities allowed 2,000 Antwerp supporters to come to Frankfurt freely, without a combined arrangement. On the spot, however, it soon became clear that ‘freedom’ was only an illusion.
Cars with fans were already stopped by the police on the way and were only allowed to drive through after a strict check, which even involved unloading suitcases. This strict approach was also extended to the city itself. Fans were monitored and supervised everywhere. Even cars parked in underground hotel garages were completely stripped. A Belgian number plate was enough to be suspicious.
On Wednesday evening, the police went one step further. Groups of supporters going out for a drink in a local cafe were soon joined by riot police in battle gear. Several cafes were emptied, after which the supporters were escorted under police escort to an Irish pub where the German authorities tried to gather all the red and white fans. The spacious area of the pub was then sealed off by hundreds of officers, including water cannons. Several fans who wanted to go back to the hotel were accompanied by a combi who accompanied them ‘up to their bed’.
On match day, Thursday, the fun was over. As soon as more than ten supporters of Antwerp in the center sat down somewhere on a terrace to have a drink, they were again joined by a platoon of agents who urged them to move. Cafés closed their doors to Antwerp fans or refused – whether or not at the express request of the police – to provide drinks. Hymns were out of the question.
In consultation with the local police and the football cell of the Interior, a central meeting point had been ‘set up’, at the “Willy-Brandt-Platz”, near Frankfurt Central Station. But in the afternoon, the same police decided to let the gathered fans go to a Christmas market nearby. There was a bit of atmosphere there in the late afternoon. Albeit strictly regulated. And surrounded by countless riot agents.
And the fans of Eintracht Frankfurt? Until a few hours before the game, there was no mention of even one Eintracht fan who had encountered an Antwerp colleague somewhere. The strict security measures of the German police may not have been very hospitable, but they seemed efficient at the time.
Whether that would remain the case once the game gets closer remains to be seen. The German police had already planned, together with the Belgian spotters, to ‘calmly’ guide as many Antwerp fans as possible from the center, with a reserved train, to the stadium.