‘Very high risk’ to England fans as 500-strong army of Serbian Headhunters & Gravediggers ultras to swarm Euros clash

ENGLAND fans have been warned that a 500-strong army of “violence-seeking ­Serbian ­hooligans” are set to swarm Sunday’s huge Euros clash.

The opening game for both sides has already been labelled as a “very high risk” match by German cops with 1,300 extra officers being deployed on matchday as well as heavily increased surveillance.

ReutersEngland fans have been warned over Serbian hooligans swarming Sunday’s huge Euros clash[/caption]

AlamyGerman cops have said that a 500-strong army of ‘violence-seeking ­Serbian ­hooligans’ could descend on the game[/caption]

GettySerbian ultras have been known to cause chaos on the international stage by causing fires in the stands, brawls with rival fans and even pitch invasions[/caption]

AFP or licensorsThe police presence has been increased in Germany after fan violence at previous tournaments involving England fans[/caption]

Serbian ultra groups such as Headhunters and Gravediggers are among some of the most feared football fans in Europe.

They have regularly caused riots on the streets and fierce fights up in the stands at international matches – even by pitch invading and attacking rival players.

With England fans also being known for causing havoc at football matches through distasteful chants, alcohol-fuelled ventures and their undying arrogance over the team’s ability on the pitch.

Rowdy Three Lions fans and ruthless Serbian ultras are flocking to Germany over the weekend to take part in what could be one of the most volatile games of the tournament.

Peter Both, the chief of police in Gelsenkirchen where the game will be played, has claimed “up to 400 or 500 ­violence-seeking ­Serbian ­hooligans will travel to ­Germany” ahead of the game.

The biggest challenge for us will be to identify violent, disruptive groups at an early stage, to separate them from peaceful and law-abiding fans

Peter BothChief of police in Gelsenkirchen

Despite Both saying they don’t “have concrete information” on the number of travelling thugs he vowed his team will prepare for any eventuality.

He told The Guardian: “I guess the biggest challenge for us will be to identify violent, disruptive groups at an early stage, to separate them from peaceful and law-abiding fans, that will be our biggest challenge.”

Roughly 500,000 Serbs live in Germany and there are fears some may travel to Gelsenkirchen specifically to cause trouble.

With one East European media platform already vowing daily updates from the Euros “where we will cover the matches and, above all, events outside the stadium”.

A special focus will be at the Trabrennbahn racecourse where there is a 40,000 fan zone set to host Three Lions fans for the Serbia game.

It is understood British police “spotters” and plain-clothed officers will also be on hand to watch England fans at every match.

The cheap price of strong beer in Germany has also led to the Foreign Office issuing an official warning to fans telling them to “drink responsibly”.

However, Germany‘s experience with hosting major widescale sporting events before means they are well prepared for issues.

A UK law enforcement source told the i: “If you were going to hold this tournament at this time anywhere apart from the UK, then you would choose Germany.

“They have a lot of experience at this kind of thing and they are putting in place a comprehensive system.

“But it’s a complex picture and unfortunately England fans are still regarded as fair game, or even desirable targets, by opposing hooligan groupings.

“There is particular concern about the Serbia game.”

Around 22,000 federal police officers will be on duty every day of the tournament across Germany.

With officers from across the continent being on high alert for any potential suspects at borders and train stations.

ENGLAND’S TOURNAMENT CHAOS

Travelling Three Lions supporters have forged a poor reputation for their behaviour overseas through the years.

England have been the target of several international assaults in the past both at club level and for national fans.

The 2016 Euros in France was viewed as a major failure for England both on the pitch and off it due to fan violence.

Before the tournament had even begun, fighting broke out between England fans and rival supporters in Marseille with cops being forced to tear gas local youths.

Are they the Serbs the most notorious football fans?

FROM pitch raids to mass brawls and death threats, Serbian hooligans are known wreak havoc and create carnage during football games.

Die-hard groups of hooligans are intertwined with football in Serbia – and they are known for ruthlessly attacking players on the pitch and storming opposition stalls when the match turns against them.

Hooligan firms in the Balkan state have chilling names such as The Gravediggers, Head Hunters, Zulu Warriors, and the Red Devils.

And one of their most vicious leaders is known as “Ivan the Terrible”.

In 2012, Ivan – who has been linked to Serbian far-right paramilitaries – forced a Euros qualifying match between Serbia and Italy in Genoa to be abandoned after trying to attack rival fans and police.

He rallied supporters to lob live flares and bangers onto the pitch as players warmed up and ordered them to break down barriers separating them from Italian fans while taunting police.

Tracing their lineage back to the Balkan war of the 1990s, Serb football hooligans are renowned for their tough-as-nails attitude and love of violence.

They are known for throwing live bangers at players who have switched sides and invading the pitches when games don’t go their way.

In the past, the Ultras have killed rival fans – including a Toulouse supporter in 2009 who was beaten to death with iron bars and bicycle chains.

Getty Images – GettyEngland fans run from tear gas thrown by cops after they were ambushed by Russian supporters at the 2016 Euros[/caption]

A crazed Serbian fan once threw a punch at an Albanian player during a match

Getty Images – GettyEngland fans clashed with Russian fans in Marseille before and after they played a group stage match[/caption]

After England drew with Russia on June 11, clashes broke out on the streets of Marseille between the two countries.

Russia, the clear aggressor in the brutal beatings, were given a suspended disqualification as a team and fined €150,000 (£126,000).

More violence erupted between English and Russian fans in Lille a few days later.

At least 40 fans were reportedly arrested, 50 Russians deported and dozens left injured after the clashes.

One was even left in a critical condition in the hospital following a Russian ambush.

SERBIA’S CHILLING PAST

Serbian brutes are seen as some of the most malicious in football.

Ivan Bagdanov – a firebrand hooligan leader with links to Serbian far-right paramilitaries – was responsible for forcing a Euros qualifying match between Serbia and Italy to be abandoned In 2012.

He tried to attack rival fans before turning on police and sparking the grisly carnage that led to an all out war on the pitch.

Nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible” Bagdanov rallied his fellow mob to set off live flares onto the pitch as players warmed up.

They also tried to break down the barriers separating the two sets of fans.

With several other fan fights breaking out at games across the past decade including a mass brawl with Brazilian supporters at the 2018 Russian World Cup.

As four years earlier at a Euro 2016 qualifier between Serbia and Albania another battle kicked off in the stands.

Serb supporters were recorded chanting “Kill the Albanians” and wore T-shirts of Serbian war crimes general Ratko Mladic in a heated snub to two ethnic Albanians in the Swiss squad.

These horror incidents have resulted in several fines and bans being imposed on the Serbian national side with the latest coming one-year-ago.

UEFA ordered them to play a 2024 European Championship qualifier in front of an empty stadium last year due to racist chants at their previous game against Montenegro.

Fans of both sides were said to have traded ethnic-based slurs resulting in fines for each with Serbia being slapped with a £50,000 fine.

Another issue in Euro 2020 qualifying saw them face a complete stadium closure for a game.

EPASerbian cops battling against ultra members in the stands[/caption]

GettyFears have also increased due to the strength of beer in Germany potentially affecting fans[/caption]

In 2017, Wales fans were seen fighting with Serbs through the gated barriers

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