SWAT teams among guards for U.S. Cup team
Unusually heavy security designed to protect squad from terrorism
BERLIN - German police confirmed Tuesday what World Cup observers have suspected: The U.S. team has been given an unusually heavy security detail for soccer’s showcase event.
Scores of officers in the team’s home base of Hamburg have been assigned to protect the team against terrorism, including SWAT teams whose vehicles accompany the U.S. bus everywhere it goes, Hamburg Police director Ralf Meyer said in an interview.
A fleet of motorcycle officers clears traffic for the bus, which never stops or slows down as it takes one of dozens of routes between the team’s downtown hotel and the practice field on the outskirts of Germany’s second-largest city.
“South Korea or Italy certainly isn’t getting this treatment,” Meyer said.
City leaders worked with U.S. officials to draw up the security blueprint, which will be adapted as the Americans travel for at least two more games — Saturday in Cologne against Italy and June 22 in Nuremberg against Ghana.
At the training grounds in Hamburg, German police guard the American players, while the SWAT teams wait. They travel with the team wherever it goes, including airports and in and out of stadiums.
In contrast to most World Cup team buses, whose sides are painted in national colors, the American bus is unmarked.
Police in Gelsenkirchen, where the United States lost 3-0 Monday to the Czech Republic, said security was much tighter for the U.S. game than it was for an earlier Ecuador-Poland match, even though German police had been on guard against Polish hooligans.
Germany’s interior ministry, which is responsible for World Cup security, said three other teams had been provided special security: Iran, Saudi Arabia and Britain, the United States’ closest ally in the Iraq War. The two Middle Eastern nations worry about dissident groups violently opposed to their governments.
Daniel Mattern, the World Cup liaison for the U.S. embassy in Berlin, declined to discuss details of team security, but the Hamburg police director said the actions taken were merely a precaution.
“We have no evidence any attack is planned,” Meyer said. “We are doing this because of the background of 9/11, the general fear of terrorism and because this is a huge event.”