The British state-owned broadcaster BBC have aired a film about football hooliganism in which Russian football supporters are portrayed as savage thugs.
The film has elicited a disappointed response from former Sports Minister and current Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko.
“Many seek to discredit us, to intervene, to find weak spots… We understand perfectly well that when such films, made in haste, are aired, it is an attack on Russia.”
He compared the hysteria about next year’s football World Cup, to be held in Russia, to western journalists trying to discredit the Sochi Olympics before they had begun, by complaining of inadequate facilities and poor general conditions.
As it happened, the Olympics featured one of the most beautiful and wholesome opening ceremonies since the Moscow Summer Olympics of 1980 and none of the athletes complained about any of the facilities. It was yet another anti-Russian non-story that disappeared once the games actually started.
This contrasts sharply with the recent Olympics in Rio de Janeiro where some of the facilities were in such a poor state that members of the Australian Olympic team moved into local hotels. The Mayor of Rio responded by saying he will be happy to get a kangaroo to jump up and down outside the Olympic Village to make the team feel more at home. Needless to say, this offer wasn’t exactly helpful.
As was the case with the Sochi Olympics, when Russia hosted the 2008 football Champions League Final, there were no major incidents and fans from throughout the world tended to enjoy themselves.
Much of the furor around Russia’s 2018 world cup stems from violence at last year’s Eurocup Finals in France, a tournament marred by fan violence and general hooliganism.
Both English and Russian supporters were among the culprits as were many others, including Ukrainian ultras who clashed with German supporters in the midst of a match in last year’s Cup.
Much of the blame was placed on inadequate French policing. Many French law enforcement officials appeared to be caught off guard by the realization that lager filled football hooligans don’t need much of a reason to start fighting, throwing chairs and menacing locals. To their credit as the tournament went on, law enforcement stepped up their own game and the Eurocup ended rather more smoothly than it begun.
Indeed, the problem has nothing to do with any particular country’s culture but rather, a culture of violence that has marred European football for many decades.
The BBC’s attempt to single out Russia is not only irresponsible and inaccurate but it verges on the nationalistic, blaming one set of fans where there is equal blame to be passed around.
Wouldn’t it be better for UK tax payer money to be spent on a film offering solutions for violence among sports spectators rather than one which seeks to yet again demonize Russia?
It would be, but that doesn’t fit the narrative.