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Another day at the World Cup: soccer and violence

SHARE Another day at the World Cup: soccer and violence

On the eve of their nation's first World Cup game, English fans turned violent - as they often do.

They clashed with police and Tunisian fans on Sunday in Marseille, resulting in 80 arrests.Some youths broke shop windows and several of the fans suffered minor injuries, authorities said. About a hundred others, singing and chanting - many drunk and shirtless - stood outside an Irish pub along one side of the Old Port, littered with an overturned car, broken glass and scattered cafe chairs.

Authorities canceled a free evening concert in the Old Port, and most restaurants closed for the night.

The first violence broke out early Sunday morning when a motorist who was blocked for several minutes by dancing English fans tried to push his way through. His car struck and slightly injured an English fan, setting off the melee.

About 200 English fans showered police and their vehicles with bottles and cans, sending at least one gendarme to the hospital with a head injury.

French television also showed English fans burning a Tunisian flag, angering mostly French-born Tunisians from the Marseille area.

"One of them threatened us with a knife," said Majhid Bouzbhi. "I'm worried about tomorrow's match."

About 10,000 British fans were expected to attend Monday's game, and thousands more were in town looking for tickets.

FIFA was dealing with another hot item, suspending Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert for two games. Kluivert was incensed by comments from an opponent that led to his ejection against Belgium.

Kluivert, who is black, said he had been upset by offensive comments by Belgium's Lorenzo Staelens. So he stuck his elbow into Staelens' chest, drawing a red card and the subsequent suspension for the rest of the first round.

"I pushed him," Kluivert said Sunday. "I couldn't control my emotions. My actions were nothing to do with the way the match was going."

Dutch soccer authorities' reaction to FIFA's benching Kluivert was stunned anger.

"It was only a minor incident," team spokesman Rob de Leede said. "Patrick lightly pushed the player and then we saw a piece of theater, with Staelens going down like he was hit by Mike Tyson."

Kluivert, who refused to say whether the comments were racist, will miss the Netherlands' remaining Group E games against South Korea and Mexico. If the Dutch don't advance, he's done for his first World Cup.

Both afternoon games Sunday lacked excitement, as Yugoslavia edged Iran and Argentina took Japan, both 1-0.

In a night game, the sparkle returned as Croatia beat Jamaica 3-1 at Lens. Robert Prosinecki curled in a left-footed shot from just outside the penalty area in the 53rd minute, breaking a 1-1 tie. He became one of the few players to score for more than one country: Prosinecki had a goal in 1990 for Yugoslavia against the United Arab Emirates.FIFA has received letters and faxes asking it to ban Yugoslavia from participating in the World Cup because of the troubles in Kosovo.

FIFA spokesman Keith Cooper said Sunday that FIFA also received protest letters about Iran participating and letters to support Yugoslavia's taking part.

"The FIFA line is that we follow the United Nations line," Cooper said. "U.N. policy and advice determines our policy."

The United Nations has imposed economic sanctions on Yugoslavia, but has not excluded the country from participating in sporting events.

World Cup organizers filed a complaint Sunday against ticket agents and tour operators allegedly involved in ticket scams. None of the groups involved in the filing were identified.

Bruno Travade, a spokesman for the organizing committee, said it was adamant about prosecuting anyone who sold bogus tickets.

"We are going to court and an investigation will be carried out," he said.

Thousands of fans from around the world have been left without tickets they had been promised or paid for. French prosecutors said Saturday they would investigate criminal charges against businesses and individuals involved in ticket fraud.

In the middle of all these dark clouds was the soccer, which was generally uninspired Sunday after a fast start to the tournament. In Group H, Argentina badly outplayed Japan, but managed only a goal by Gabriel Batistuta.

Batistuta, Argentina's top striker, benefitted when midfielder Hiroshi Nanami lost possession in his own penalty area in the 28th minute. Batistuta chipped the ball past goalie Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, who otherwise excelled in his nation's first World Cup match.

"I am half-satisfied," Argentina coach Daniel Passarella said. "We did good things and not so good things."

Neither Yugoslavia nor Iran, two countries returning to the tournament following politically related absences, did much right. But Sinisa Mihajlovic, a free-kick specialist, curled one around the defensive wall in and to the goalie's right in the 72nd minute for the victory.

Neither side looked particularly formidable, which had to be a boost for the American team, which faces Germany on Monday in the other Group F game. But Iran coach Jamal Talebi saw something he liked.

"After today, I believe we can beat any team," he said. "We are looking forward to a victory against the United States."