Football

Russia: We'll learn from Euro 2016 violence

World Cup hosts Russia assuage security concerns, claiming they have learnt from fan violence in France

Russia's footballers failed to leave a mark on Euro 2016 but brutal violence by hardcore hooligans in France sparked fears about the World Cup that Russia will host in 2018.

Images of Russian hooligans in organised groups in Marseille and Russian far-right football fan chief Alexander Shprygin taunting French authorities with his tweets before being deported shocked many in Europe.

With the European Championship ending this morning (Singapore time), security experts are turning warily to the 2018 World Cup.

This despite it being a prestige project for President Vladimir Putin - whose government has insisted that no off-field disorder will mar the event.

"We will do everything to make sure that the teams and the supporters feel good and secure," said Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who also heads Russia's football association.

Last Monday, Putin signed off on a law that tightens controls at games and will see the interior ministry publish online a blacklist of supporters banned from matches.

The president also set up a centralised headquarters for the safety operation at the World Cup under the control of the FSB security agency.

Football's world governing body Fifa have sought to give backing to Russia's organisation of the event.

"The 2018 World Cup will be a great treat for every visitor who comes to Russia," said Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura, when she was in Russia recently.

Samoura said that all sides had "observed France", and lessons from Euro 2016 would be taken on board to make sure fans in Russia "enjoy a great football festival in a safe environment".

CONDONE BRUTALITY

But critics say Russian authorities have consistently failed to take issues that plague their game - like hooliganism and racism - seriously, with some at the top appearing to play down or even condone brutality by their fans.

France jailed three Russians and deported more than 20 others after prosecutors said hardcore hooligans went on a "hunt" for England supporters in Marseille.

The clashes saw 35 people injured, leaving two England fans in a coma.

Russia were formally warned by Uefa that they would be thrown out of Euro 2016 after their supporters went on a rampage in the Stade Velodrome after their opening game.

But the reaction from the Russian authorities was muted, and when condemnation did come it was often grudging.

Instead, most tended to blame the French police and English fans, rather than their own supporters, for the violence.

Putin was met by cheers and applause at a conference packed with high-ranking officials when he mischievously said he could not understand "how 200 of our fans could beat up several thousand English".

Moscow now seems keen to see the brutal scenes of violence in France forgotten as it seeks to avoid worries overshadowing the build up to the World Cup.

Even Russia's controversial fan association chief Shprygin has started playing nice.

"English, French, Polish, all should come to Russia," Shprygin said after returning to Russia.

"We want to show that we can be a welcoming country and that we are normal people."

- AFP.


BY THE NUMBERS

3 jailed: Three Russian fans jailed were jailed in France during Euro 2016.

20 deported: Twenty Russian fans were deported by French authorities.

35 injured: Thirty-five fans were injured, including two English fans who went into coma, after Russian supporters went on a rampage against their English counterparts in Marseille.

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