By Andrew Warshaw
February 17 – FIFA president Gianni Infantino says he has no fears about fan violence at the World Cup in Russia next year despite chilling threats against English supporters made in a television documentary.
Russian and English fans were involved in ugly clashes in Marseille at Euro 2016 and during the BBC programme on Thursday, one notorious Russian hooligan warned: “For some it (the World Cup) will be a festival of football, for others it will be a festival of violence.”
“They can come over and we’ll see. Somebody will obviously try to do something, that is like 100% – 100% guaranteed.”
The broadcast, which included terrifying claims and savage brutality, shows groups of men taking part in organised “forest fights” in preparation for football violence.
Another renowned hooligan identified as Vasily the Killer (real name Vasily Stepanov) said hooliganism had given him “principles and courage”.
He told the programme that although he was not directly involved in the Marseille rioting because he was awaiting the birth of his fifth child, “I wish I had been in Marseille the moment everything kicked off, when … hooligans from all over Russia went there and f***** all these English, these drunk chavs from Luton, Leeds and other English s***holes.
“I really wanted to be there a lot, I watched what was going on in Marseille and if I can say so, I watched like a professional. The current state of today’s English hooligans is the same as your western culture and civilisation – I mean deeply in the garbage bin.”
During Euro 2016, UEFA fined Russia €150,000 and warned that it would be thrown out of the tournament if the trouble continued. England was also threatened with disqualification because of fan violence, but was never formally charged.
Before Thursday’s programme was aired, Infantino said he was “not at all concerned” by the threat of hooliganism and that he had “full confidence” in the Russian authorities.
Speaking in Qatar, Infantino said those thinking of visiting Russia should not be put off since World Cup organisers would “learn” from the problems at Euro 2016.
“They have been in contact with UEFA and French organisers to learn the lessons from France,” he told AFP. “As part of this, the Russian government has put in place an ID system which will help us when it comes to any potential trouble.”
Reacting to Thursday’s broadcast Russia’s embassy in London said it was designed to “sow fear” into western fans and stop them travelling.
“The filmmakers from the government-funded channel [BBC] did their best to discredit Russia and the forthcoming World Cup,” it said, adding that a similar campaign had been launched prior to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
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