HANNOVER: World champions Germany’s friendly against Holland in Hannover was cancelled 90 minutes before kickoff after a security alert set off amid fears of a terrorist attempt to detonate an explosive device inside the ground.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel had been scheduled to attend the game which had been cleared only after lengthy discussions between Interior Ministry and security directors in the wake of last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
She had arrived in the city but had not set out for the stadium. The German squad were en route to the ground when their team bus was diverted away by police.
Unconfirmed local media reports claimed that explosive devices had been found in an ambulance and at the main railway station but these were later denied though station access was shut down while a search was undertaken.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said: “The danger for Germany and Europe is there for all to see. The situation is serious. When in doubt, the protection of human life is priority.”
He refused to comment on the source of warnings about an attack on the match.
Hanover police chief Volker Kluwe warned of a “concrete danger situation throughout Hannover”. He added: “We have had concrete evidence that someone wanted to detonate an explosive device at the stadium.”
Mayor Stefan Schostok added: “Safety is paramount. This is a fear that you will always have. I trust the police that they have made the right decision. If a threat situation exists then these are the steps which must be taken.”
It was the third time a Germany friendly had been called off at short notice.
In 1994 a friendly against England in Berin was cancelled out of concerns about possible demonstrations since it fell on the birthday of Adolf Htler and, in 2009, a game against Chile was scrapped after the suicide of goalkeeper Robert Enke.
Reinhard Rauball, joint acting president of the German federation, refused to speculate on the prospects for the weekend’s resumpton of league action in the Bundesliga.
He said: “We will have to think about this. I think that German football, after the events if today, is facing a new challenge.”
Last Friday several of the 129 people Paris victims were killed in three explosions outside the Stade de France. Suicide bombers had attempted in vain to enter the venue with the intention of detonating their explosive belts in the crowd.
The German squad remained in the stadium after the game and slept on mattresses before being flown directly back to Germany. The French players had defied their own security advisers and insisted on staying with the German team.