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       Saturday, June 24, 2006

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US Soccer Team Well Protected at World Cup

By Parke Brewer
21 June 2006
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The U.S. soccer team is under heavy security at the World Cup in Germany. Nowhere is that more apparent than at its training base in Hamburg.

Ever since arriving in Germany for the FIFA World Cup, footballs biggest tournament that is held every four years, the U.S. soccer team has been well protected.

Team spokesman Jim Moorhouse told VOA Sports that a lot of planning went into security measures for the players, their families and U.S. Soccer Federation officials.

"For a little more than a year weve been working very closely with the State Department, as well as FIFA [football's world governing body] and the local organizing committee, as well as the Hamburg police to make sure all the parameters were in place," said Jim Moorhouse. "And we feel like everythings been covered very well."

Police at the Hamburg SV Football Club, where US team trains Of the groups assigned to security detail for the U.S. team, the most visible are the Hamburg police. Police spokesman Ralf Mayer says all 10,000 members of the force are involved at one time or another. On games days, 2,900 police are on duty in Hamburg. He says typically 100 are assigned to the U.S. soccer teams hotel in the downtown area near the main train station, as well as a SWAT team. The street in front of the luxury hotel is barricaded and has very limited access.

For security reasons, the U.S. team is the only one of the 32 at the World Cup traveling in an unmarked bus. But Moorhouse said it did not turn out to be much of a secret.

"Its a little bit of an interesting story because thats a decision that was made well over a year ago with the State Department," he said. "And at the time, the question arose, would that be a safer thing to do. It probably was. We made that decision. Of course, unbeknownst to us, a press conference was held by the organizing committee that displayed all 32 buses and our bus, sans [without] flag, thus nullifying any security effects that that decision might have had. So that was an error on their part and were not afraid to say that."

Theres no doubt people know what the blue U.S. team bus looks like as it makes its way on different routes from the hotel to the Americans training ground at the Hamburg SV football club in the suburbs. It has a huge police motorcade with wailing sirens and a usually a helicopter overhead.

Ralf Meyer (r) with a Hamburg policeman Police spokesman Ralf Meyer told VOA Sports that the local residents are now accepting of the occasional inconveniences when the U.S. team is traveling through their neighborhoods.

"We have no problems anymore," said Ralf Meyer. "Were there. We've talked to them. We tried to clear [make them understand] everything, and now we have a situation that everything is all right, and we have no critics from there. And I think we have a good concept. And the people are involved. They understand what we do because of the history of 9/11, and I think everything is okay."

U.S. soccer team coach Bruce Arena says they are accustomed to the tight security.

"Security doesnt bother us," he said. "In fact, I think it makes us comfortable."

And team spokesman Jim Moorhouse says security is a way of life for all teams at such a high profile event.

"We are at the World Cup, and its not only the biggest sporting event in the world, its the biggest event in the world, so theres security everywhere," he said. "Its not just on the U.S. team but it seems to be where everyone is focused."

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posted by Robert at 1:17 AM  


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