Russian football fans are not renowned for their tolerance and their peacefulness.
Those worries for travelling away fans going to watch their teams play in the country reached a new high when reports came out yesterday that Zenit St Petersburg fans were roaming their city “looking for people from Dortmund in gangs of up to 20 people” ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League clash, according to Dortmund’s official supporters group’s website.
Naturally, this is not the first time that fans from other European cities have been warned to be careful when visiting St Petersburg, a club known for their violent and extreme ultras.
Every time this happens it is both a slap in the face of UEFA who’s sanctions have been ineffective in curbing the dangerous atmosphere at the club, and also a warning to FIFA and the upcoming 2018 World Cup in Russia.
If the violence that we have seen this week continues into the competition, it could become one of the most dangerous World Cups to attend ever.
It would be not only bad for the people who get caught up in mindless hooliganism, but also for the competition and Russia as a whole, as many family will hesitate to take the risk of going to follow their team if it puts them in danger physically.
This is of course not the first time that the nation hosts a competition of great importance, having only just finished successful Winter Olympics, but the latter doesn’t attract the same kind of fervour as huge international football competitions, which have in the past been under scrutiny for clashes between fans from different countries.
It is not just the fans who could be in danger, but also the players, as Russian clubs tend to have a less than welcoming attitude to black players, as shows the example of the Zenit St Petersburg player Hulk, who has been on the receiving end of racist abuse from both home and away fans since his arrival at the club.
All these issues concerning the way both fans and players will be received by the Russian population will have to be dealt with by the government ahead of the competition if they do not want to suffer massive international backlash in the same way their anti-gay laws overshadowed most of the Winter Olympic coverage.
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