Mixed response to trouble as Russians point finger

Some blame English fans and French police but others call for hooligan clampdown

16 June ~ Whatever conclusions can be drawn from the chaos so far at Euro 2016, one thing is for sure – fans in Russia have been picking over the events in great detail. At some point in the last week everyone has pointed the finger at everyone else. Fratria, the Spartak Moscow ultras group, were one of many claiming the English fans started the trouble by provoking the Russians – Fratria claim they only fought with those English fans that wanted to.

Others – including the now infamous politician Igor Lebedev, who tweeted that Russian fans should “keep going” after the trouble at the Russia v England game – have blamed the French for poor organisation. Lebedev suggested English and Russian fans should be taken out to a forest to slog it out and, slightly more rationally, that alcohol should not be sold on match days.

UEFA have been accused of being part of a Western conspiracy to put Russia in its place, and also of double standards: fans have asked why, for example, nothing was made of English fans whistling during the Russian national anthem, and why the Ukrainian FA hasn’t been punished for an anti-Russian chant from its fans during the Germany game.

Although some boast that Russian fans can now match the most notorious hooligans, plenty have also criticised their behaviour – one on sports website Championat suggested fellow Russians shouldn’t confuse patriotism with stupidity. Others blamed too much drink, demanded fan movements be banned and worried that the fighting might mean Russia being stripped of the 2018 World Cup.

Other supporters suggested hooligans should be deported; former Spartak and Celta Vigo midfielder Aleksandr Mostovoi described how he would go about that: “A huge number of police should be deployed to capture the perpetrators, chain them together, load them onto a train and take them out of France,” he told Championat.

Whereas a number of Russian journalists seem to be following English fans around currently, looking for any controversial incident worth tweeting about, official government reactions have been less provocative. No doubt mindful of the 2018 World Cup, comments from the minister of sport, Vitaly Mutko, have mainly focused on calming the situation.

Television news has largely blamed the French, though it was interesting to note a piece on Russians having their hotel rooms searched by police – it almost entirely featured footage of English fans drinking and chanting in bars, interspersed with images of police cars. Post-tournament we may see a slick piece of state television infotainment proving English fans caused all the trouble.

Going into the final game, Russian fans find the focus still on the violence rather than the insipid team performances. The discussion is slowly turning back to whether coach Leonid Slutsky should abandon a failed attempt to accommodate three strikers, and who he can swap out of a currently ineffective midfield. But there is still dread in the back of the mind that things will go wrong against Wales and some fans will – to use a Russian saying – “slam the door” on the tournament. Saul Pope