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American among 2 stabbed in Rome

TWO men, including an American mistaken for an English fan, were stabbed and eight others arrested before the Champions League final last night between Barcelona and Manchester United in Rome, police said.

Briton Greg Whedon, 34, was assaulted and stabbed in his left leg outside his hotel yesterday.

Four Italians stabbed a 23-year-old American during the night after assuming he was British when he spoke to them in English. "He was found on the ground, bloody and screaming in English, with four people on top hitting and stabbing him with a knife," police said. The four Italians were arrested.

Elsewhere, a 19-year-old British fan and his father were arrested outside a bar overnight for hitting two policemen who had intervened to stop a brawl, police said.

Two other Britons were arrested for paying a 300-euro (US$418) dinner bill at the upscale Cafe de Paris restaurant on Via Veneto with fake bank notes.

Thousands of fans have descended on Rome for the final, and authorities have banned alcohol sales in the city center before the game.

With hours to go before the match, the fans flooded the city center, snapping pictures at the Colosseum and sporting the colors of their teams.

Hundreds of others attended Pope Benedict XVI's public audience at the Vatican, waving their flags before the pontiff.

"We need his blessing," said Cristina Bargues, a 15-year-old student from Barcelona, wearing the blue-maroon scarf of the Spanish club.

Among the VIPs expected at the Olympic Stadium for club football's most prestigious event were the Spanish royals and Prince William, who was invited by the English Football Association as the organization's president.

Thousands of law enforcement officials were deployed around the stadium and in the city center, at airports and subway stops.

Others were guarding Rome's monuments and other artistic treasures.

About 1,000 stewards will be deployed inside the stadium, and 30 police officers from England and Spain, some mingling with the fans in plainclothes, were also at hand to help the Italians.

Rome's Mayor Gianni Alemanno said officials had warned leaders of the "ultras," or hard-core fans, not to create trouble.


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