Germany welcomes hooligans’ victim to EURO 2016 opening game

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

LILLE, France (AP) A former policeman who was brutally attacked by German hooligans at the 1998 World Cup in France joined a delegation from the German football federation (DFB) for its opening game of Euro 2016 on Sunday.

Daniel Nivel spent weeks in a coma with severe head injuries and never fully recovered after being attacked by several German fans in Lens on June 21, 1998. He was invited by the DFB to be its guest of honor at the Group C game against Ukraine.

The 61-year-old Nivel was joined by his wife Lorette, their two sons and a grandson as they were welcomed by DFB president Reinhard Grindel.

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“It means a lot to us that Daniel Nivel accepted our invitation and was happy with this gesture,” Grindel said. “We have never forgotten what Germans did to him, the suffering brought upon him and his family.”

Nivel was never able to return to work after the attack that took place before Germany’s 2-2 draw with Yugoslavia. He now lives with his wife about 50 kilometers south of Lille, where Sunday’s game was taking place.

Four of Nivel’s attackers received prison sentences of between 3 1/2 and 10 years.

Nivel had been a guest of the German team before. In 2000 the DFB established the Daniel Nivel Foundation to investigate and attempt to curb violence in football, as well as to help victims.

“It was important to us to tell him personally again that we will always be there for him in future through the Daniel Nivel Foundation. His fate, given current events, should be a reminder that such a thing should never happen again in future,” Grindel said.

The DFB president was referring to three days of violence in Marseille and the fear there could be more to come at the tournament.