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Kiev – Thousands of English football fans descended on the Ukrainian capital Kiev on Friday ahead of a Euro 2012 match against Sweden, but city officials said supporters of the Three Lions were behaving themselves and there had been no reports of violence.
“We have taken absolutely no additional security steps to deal with the English fans, we are treating this game just like any other Euro match,” said Kiev mayor Oleksandr Popov.
“It is my impression after speaking with fan representatives in England that the ones that would visit us are going to be absolutely fine, normal people,” he said. “I am quite sure this will be the case.”
The Euro 2012 fan zone in Kiev in the hours before the match pitting the English against the Swedes was thronged with thousands of fans of both teams. Many had begun drinking beer well before midday.
“It's just a great holiday and good fun,” said Graham Smith, a Leicester factory worker visiting Ukraine for the first time with two of his mates. “Everyone's been friendly, the police, the Ukrainians, the Swedes. No complaints at all.”
A holiday atmosphere was prevailing in the fan zone, with some Swedish and English fans drinking or taking photographs together.
Kiev police reportedly positioned extra riot control vehicles near
the Olympic stadium on Friday morning, but Mayor Popov said the measure was precautionary and not connected to the upcoming match.
“That is not something we asked the police to do, in our opinion the situation is wholly peaceful,” he said.
Workmen were seen erecting security barriers along streets in the vicinity of the stadium to control crowds and prevent the approach of most vehicles. Similar measures were put into effect for a Monday Ukraine-Sweden match as well.
Police presence throughout the Kiev city centre was moderate, and light in areas frequented by fans.
The English Football Association has cracked down on hooliganism in recent years, blacklisting known troublemakers and preventing them from travelling abroad.
The English fans present in Ukraine said they had been favourably impressed by Euro 2012 tournament preparations. Some complained of distant or outrageously-priced lodging, but many said they had not expected the former Soviet republic to manage service standards common at major football matches in Europe.
“I was expecting much worse, but to be honest everything we need is right here and I have to say the local people are just lovely,” said Len Parker, a Derby tax adviser. “And you can't beat the price of beer.”
The Ukrainian capital will see an influx of half a million additional tourists during the Euro 2012 championship, Popov said, citing preliminary estimates.– Sapa-dpa