Liverpool and Manchester United are in Russia this week for away Champions League matches. Thousands of fans from both teams head to the country who is hosting next year’s World Cup as Liverpool take on Spartak Moscow Tuesday and Manchester United play CSKA Moscow Wednesday.
As a result, like most European games in Russia, there is a risk of fan behavior that could be dangerous for other fans and the players. To try and stop this before it starts, Vladimir Markin, the head of Russia Football Union’s security committee, warned (possibly threatened) visiting fans that they could face jail time if anything hooligan related happens.
“I don’t want to scare anyone but I warn those who plan to come here not to support their side and see the country but to commit hooliganism: the law is the same for all, not just for Russians. Those who break it will face a suitable punishment, possibly in the form of a long stay in Russia, in conditions our guests won’t like.”
Yeah, that’s all well and good but if Markin followed through with this advice on the Russian people, there would be fewer problems. I’m not saying Liverpool and Manchester United fans are angels who won’t get into trouble but there’s a reason why Liverpool and Manchester United told their fans to not wear team colors or walk alone in Moscow.
In addition, in Matchday 1 a couple weeks ago, it was a Spartak supporter who fired a flare that almost hit the referee in an away match against Maribor that resulted in their fans being banned for the next away match in Sevilla. And during Euro 2016 in France, months after a deadly bombing in Paris, hooliganism from Russian fans dominated the tournament, culminating with 150 hooligans flying to Marseille for the England match for a huge fight. And instead of condemning that act, A Russian soccer official praised that and tweeted “I don’t see anything wrong with the fans fighting. Quite the opposite, well done lads, keep it up!”
If Markin really wants to stamp out hooliganism, maybe he should clean his own glass house before cleaning the houses of others. It’s a shame all Russians are being painted with a wide brush for the small percentage of hooligans ruining their reputation but this is where we are. This is a preview for next summer’s World Cup. Fans of every other country will need to watch out for the slightest thing that could send them to Siberia while the home nation’s hooligans get carte blanche to do anything they want without fear of punishment. Suddenly, Qatar doesn’t seem like that bad of a place for a World Cup.