England fans deported from Turkey

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Dozens of English football fans who defied warnings against traveling to Saturday's Euro 2004 qualifier in Istanbul have been flown home from Turkey.

A massive security operation was in place in Istanbul, with thousands of police officers on duty to prevent disorder at the match, which England drew 0-0 to reach next year's finals in Portugal.

Although most England fans appeared to have heeded pleas not to travel to the game, 45 fans were flown home Saturday after being deported from Turkey.

England supporters who managed to get past authorities at the airport faced stringent checks around Sukru Saracoglu stadium.

Only fans with Turkish identification were allowed beyond police cordons around the grounds.

The strict measures were put in place following animosity between the two sets of fans when trouble flared at an England-Turkey game in Sunderland, England, in April.

European football's governing body UEFA had threatened to throw England out of the tournament if there was a repetition of the trouble.

It was hoped the ring of steel would prevent any English supporters getting close to the stadium. If they did and were caught, they were to be taken to a community center for the duration of the game.

According to Reuters, witnesses and the state-run Anatolian news agency reported that Turkish police detained at least three England fans who tried to enter the stadium before the game.

The three were holding tickets and wearing Turkish football jerseys when they were stopped, and authorities led them away from the stadium to police vehicles, Reuters said.

British police said Friday they expected up to 200 supporters from England to arrive in Turkey for the game and only a handful to get into the stadium.

The match, meanwhile, has been overshadowed by the row over Rio Ferdinand missing a drugs test last month.

The Manchester United defender was dropped by England's Football Association (FA) for the crucial game, leading the other players to the brink of a strike before an agreement was reached.