MARSEILLE, France (AP) — The German fan embassy was doing brisk business Wednesday handing out armbands and plastic garlands in the country’s red, yellow and black colors, not only to supporters but also to locals and tourists in town for the European Championship semifinal against France.
By late afternoon, bars that a few weeks ago were overflowing with bare-chested, beer-swilling England fans were largely empty, a day before Euro 2016’s highly anticipated second semifinal.
“I think tomorrow will be busy,” said Volker Goll, who was in charge of the “embassy” that was handing out German language information on Marseille and the match. “We expect 15-20,000 fans tomorrow.”
The police presence was low key, with only a small Citroen police car parked near a busy crossroads for much of the afternoon. As evening approached, a convoy of six white vans carrying riot police parked nearby.
Wednesday’s peaceful scenes were a marked contrast to the violence that erupted before the first match in Marseille, when English, Russian and French hooligans were involved in three days of clashes before, during and after their 1-1 draw. Clashes left dozens of fans and police injured and the cobbled streets of the Old Port strewn with broken glass from smashed beer bottles.
Marseille has been largely peaceful since those fan rampages. France played Albania here on June 15, a 2-0 victory for Les Bleus that was preceded by the two teams’ supporters singing and drinking together in the Old Port.
On Wednesday, there was no singing, but locals and visiting Germans shared sun-drenched terraces with most Germans sticking to beer, while a few sipped from glasses of chilled rose wine.
German Torsten Viebrock, a 31-year-old carpenter who flew in Wednesday from Hamburg, was drinking a beer with friends outside an Irish pub that was one of the flashpoints of the violence that erupted around the England-Russia match.
He was more concerned about Germany’s injury list and France’s in-form front line than a possible repeat of the violence.
“I’m not worried,” he said. “England is out of the tournament.”
Viebrock, not surprisingly, predicted a win for the world champion Germans, but not an easy one.
Listing the French threats, he reeled off the men to watch: “(Dimitri) Payet, (Antoine) Griezmann, (Olivier) Giroud,”he said, before repeating, “Griezmann,” as if to underscore the danger of the tournament’s top scorer with four goals.
France captain Hugo Lloris said he was looking forward to the atmosphere in the city’s Stade Velodrome.
“Marseille is special,” he said. “There’s a lot of fervor, a lot of character in this city. I hope it will help us.”
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