TALLINN - Unprecedented measures were taken to ensure the World Cup qualifier between Estonia and Russia on March 30 passed with minimal disruption.
In addition to the 100 police on regular street patrol duty, 500 more officers were activated to secure peace and order. Falck, a private security company, provided 161 men for ticket and security control at the stadium.
At a press conference on March 28, Estonia's traffic police chief Raivo Aeg warned residents of the capital that they would experience major back-up since over 9,000 people were expected to attend the game. Kick-off was scheduled for 6 p.m., right in the middle of rush hour.
Aeg added that regular city dwellers should not fear crowds of soccer fans as the police will be ready to secure order with more forces in the streets than usual.
In case of serious law and order violations, the police stationed a 52-strong rapid reaction team at the stadium.
The Estonian Soccer Union dedicated 750 seats for supporters of the visiting team (out of a total of 9,300 seats available at the country's largest stadium, the A.leCoq Arena), fueling speculation that problems could arise.
Law enforcement officers from Russia cooperated with Estonian colleagues to prevent fans renowned for their aggressive behavior from entering the country. Several Russian law enforcement officials accompanied soccer fans during their trip.
According to the Estonian Soccer Union, ticket holders with explicit signs of supporting the visiting team will not be allowed to the regular sectors of the stadium. This raised concerns about Estonia's minority Russian community, many of whom tend to support neighboring Russia.
The last match between the two countries, hosted by Estonia in March 2002, resulted in some of the most violent clashes between police and soccer fans that the Baltic country has ever witnessed. During the game, fans from both teams exhibited controversial signs and posters referring to World War II.
Supporters of the Russian team lit up several prohibited flash torches and burned an Estonian flag.
After the friendly, which Estonia won 2:1, the police had to pacify supporters of the Russian team with the help of a recently created crowd-control unit and police dogs.
Police detained 26 people, four of whom were locals. As a result, about 20 Russian citizens were issued a five-year entry ban.