Soccer fans shame Russia again, at Euro

Russian supporters attack an England fan at the end of the Euro 2016 Group B soccer match between England and Russia, at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France.

Russian supporters attack an England fan at the end of the Euro 2016 Group B soccer match between England and Russia, at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France.

European soccer authorities have threatened to disqualify the Russian national team from Euro 2016 after ugly brawls and unrest between its fans, England supporters and locals in Marseille. Unfortunately, disturbances involving Russian hooligans are nothing new – as earlier examples of trouble have shown.

The Russian national team made a fortunate and successful start to the Euro 2016 soccer championship in France, managing to tie with England after a late goal scored by veteran defender Vasily Berezutsky. However, the attention of mass media and audiences was riveted not on the June 11 match in Marseilles' Stade Velodrome, but on the ugly clashes between Russian and English fans before, during and after the game.

After the disorder, in which almost 30 people were injured, UEFA issued Russia (and England) with a suspended disqualification and slapped the Russian Football Union with a 150,000-euro ($170,000) fine for the misbehaviour of its fans inside the stadium. Russian fans invaded one of the England enclosures at the end of the match and were involved in physical violence. If there is a recurrence of such violence, the Russian national team will be disqualified from the competition.

2002: Battle under the Kremlin walls

Russian fans have been at the centre of disgraceful incidents on several previous occasions. During the 2002 World Cup, mass viewing of the Russia-Japan match on a large screen in the fan zone on Manezh Square, in the centre of Moscow, ended in tragedy on June 9. The crowd, enraged by the Russia team's defeat, broke store windows and turned cars upside down. The mass disturbance right under the Kremlin walls continued for several hours.

A football fan shouts in front of a burning car in central Moscow June 9, 2002. Source: Reuters

According to the official report, the fans' aggression was provoked by a commercial with a scene from the Coen brothers film The Big Lebowski, in which a person smashes a car with a heavy object. A 17-year-old schoolboy died in the violence and dozens of people were injured, including several people of Asian appearance.

Football fans wreck a car in central Moscow, on June 9, 2002. Source: Reuters

After this shameful event, authorities prohibited viewing of sports games on large screens in the centre of Moscow. Shortly afterwards, they also introduced a law to fight against terrorism, which significantly reduced freedom for mass assembly.

2010: Fans against migrants

Eight years later, in December 2010, Manezh Square was again the venue for an explosion of fan hatred. This time the aggression was directed with more precision: against migrant workers from the North Caucasus and Central Asia.

The event was triggered by the December 6 murder of 28-year-old Spartak Moscow fan Yegor Sviridov at the hands of a group of young people from the North Caucasus on the periphery of Moscow. Spartak fans were particularly indignant about the police releasing five of the six perpetrators.

Protesters chant slogans as they gathered in central Moscow's Manege Square to remember Yegor Sviridov. Source: Maxim Shemetov/TASS

Organizing themselves via social networks, 11 hardcore fans gathered in the centre of Moscow on December 11. Shouting nationalist slogans, they threw bottles and rocks at the police, lit flares and launched fireworks. Local clashes between nationalist fans and Caucasians continued for several days, not only in Moscow but also in other Russian cities.

This resulted in prosecution of all the people linked to the murder of Sviridov. From then on, ‘fans’ have been regarded as a powerful political force. Nationalist fan groups were responsible for the anti-migrant disorder in the Moscow commuter town of Biryulevo in October 2013.

2012: Fighting on the streets of Warsaw

Russian fans again made front-page news across the world for their role in one of the most unpleasant episodes of Euro 2012, which was held in Poland and Ukraine.

A Polish supporter (right) challenges Russian football fans in Warsaw June 12, 2012. Source: Reuters

The day of the group-stage match between Russia and Poland on June 12, Warsaw witnessed a real street war with fights, police cordons, tear gas and water cannons as Russian fans marched through the city centre to celebrate Russia Day. The procession, seen as an unnecessary provocation on the part of the Russian fans, given the historic enmity between the two nations, turned into a brawl with local fans who, according to one account, were offended by the Soviet symbols that the Russians were demonstrating.

Both Russian and Polish fans insulted each other during the match and clashed with the police. However the real battle occurred the night after the match, which ended in a 1-1 draw. According to the accounts of Russian supporters, the Polish ultras (radical fans) began hunting down Russian fans, attacking them indiscriminately in groups of 8-10 people.

The clashes saw 140 people receive heavy injuries on that bloody night. The police detained dozens of people. Polish fans were fined and received suspended sentences while the Russian hooligans were deported.

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