Russian authorities promise to eradicate hooliganism in 2018 World Cup build-up
Monday, 19 November 2012
November 19 - Russian authorities have promised to clamp down on hooliganism and beef up security after the latest alarming outbreak of fan violence that has shocked the country and cast a dark shadow over its credibility as hosts of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Champions Zenit St. Petersburg have threatened to pull out of the Russian Premier League if they are blamed for the abandonment of the fixture on Saturday (November 17) against Dynamo Moscow.
The referee led the players off the pitch after 36 minutes of the game in the Moscow suburb of Khimki after Dynamo goalkeeper Anton Shunin was hit by a firecracker thrown from the stands.
Shunin was taken to hospital with burns after the device exploded in his face.
Zenit executive director Maxim Mitrofanov said that despite the fact the flare came from the away section, it was far too early to establish the identity of the culprit - and that Dynamo should take the blame as hosts.
"We don't understand the responsibility that Zenit should bear," Mitrofanov said.
"Dynamo oversaw the entry of the fans to the stadium and the ticket sales.
"I don't understand why Dynamo try to make us the guilty party.
"I know that our shareholders and sponsors would be very unhappy if we were treated unfairly. In that case, we will consider pulling out of the championship."
When Russia gained a landslide victory as World Cup hosts as FIFA voted to take the tournament to a new territory, one of the biggest concerns was hooliganism – not least with regard to racism.
Organisers have persistently defended their record and accused critics of unfairly singling out Russia but this latest incident will cast the country back into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Police said 53 people had been arrested including one Zenit fan suspected of having thrown the firework which halted the game in which Dynamo were leading 1-0.
To make matters worse, local reports said some 30 Zenit fans had attacked Dynamo supporters before the match.
The Russian Premier League has called an emergency meeting "taking into consideration the recent negative tendency of acts of hooliganism by some football fans, which caused dangerous consequences for other supporters and players."
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev described the violence as "not an incident but a crime and furthermore a premeditated crime."
He added: "There cannot be anarchy.
"People need to be put in prison for this sort of thing."
Alexander Zhukov, President of the Russian Olympic Committee and Deputy Speaker of Parliament, said lawmakers were already discussing new legislation to curb fan violence while new Russian Football Union President Nikolai Tolstykh said: "We will collect all the reports and documents and analyse them to investigate this terrible case thoroughly."
Despite the protestations of Zenit, who trailed league leaders CSKA Moscow by three points before Saturday's fixture, the club could be handed a 3-0 defeat as well as a heavy fine.
Champions for the last two seasons and sponsored by energy giant Gazprom, they are due to host Malaga in Champions League on Wednesday (November 21).
Violence at Russian domestic games have shown no sign of receding since the country was awarded the World Cup.
In September a fourth round cup game between Dynamo and local rivals Torpedo was abandoned when fans threw fireworks and smoke bombs onto the pitch.
Torpedo were expelled from the competition.
Then, last month, a group of Dynamo fans in camouflage used paintball rifles to shoot at their own out-of-form players at the club's training ground.