Russia shocked by football firecracker outrage
MOSCOW (AFP) –
Russia’s football authorities Monday vowed to fully investigate the latest outbreak of fan violence to hit the World Cup 2018 hosts after a top-flight goalkeeper was injured by a supporter’s firecracker.
The incident forced a Premier League game between Dynamo Moscow and Zenit St Petersburg to be abandoned and was just the latest in a spate of hooliganism outrages that have raised concerns about Russia’s hosting of the World Cup.
The Russian Premier League said it will hold on Tuesday an extraordinary meeting to investigate the incident at Saturday’s match which was stopped in the 36th minute after Dynamo goalkeeper Anton Shunin was injured by a firecracker thrown by visiting Zenit fans.
“Taking into consideration the recent negative tendency of acts of hooliganism by some football fans, which caused dangerous consequences for other supporters and players, the league decided to discuss the case at an extraordinary meeting,” a statement said.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev expressed fury over the violence, which he described as “not an incident but a crime and furthermore a premeditated crime.”
“There cannot be anarchy. People need to be put in prison for this sort of thing,” told a meeting of deputy prime ministers, state media said.
On Saturday, Dynamo took the lead in the 27th minute through a Vladimir Granat free kick, but referee Alexei Nikolaev called a halt to the game nine minutes later after Shunin went down injured.
After the match local police detained 53 visiting fans at the Khimki Arena “including the person who supposedly threw the firecracker onto the pitch.”
Local medics said that Shunin is currently undergoing treatment to his eyes — which suffered a chemical burn – as well as injuries to his right ear caused by the blowing up of the firecracker.
In a bizarre twist, reports by stadium stewards said the firecrackers were likely to have been brought into the ground by Zenit female supporters in condoms pushed inside their bodies, adding that they found numerous torn rubber contraceptives in the women’s lavatory.
Russian Football Union chief Nikolai Tolstykh, who visited the stadium soon after the incident, said that a decision on the case would be taken in the near future.
“We will collect all the reports and documents and analyse them to investigate this terrible case thoroughly,” Tolstykh was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS news agency.
Medvedev said it should be a priority to adopt new legislation aimed at preventing such violence from taking place.
The head of the Russian Olympic Committee and Russian parliament deputy speaker Alexander Zhukov confirmed that lawmakers were now discussing the possibility of introducing new legislation to curb fan violence.
“This exists in many European countries and likely this is right,” he said.
The two clubs both issued statements trying to lay the responsibility for the incident on the opposite side.
Dynamo representatives said that Zenit should be penalised with a technical defeat for their fans’ unruly behaviour.
Meanwhile, Zenit appeared to claim that the troublemakers were not true fans of the club. It blamed Dynamo for allowing “any people from the street” to buy tickets into the visiting team’s fan sector.
Worryingly, the reigning champions also threatened to boycott the national championship in the event that the league find the Saint Petersburg club guilty.
A fourth round Russia Cup tie between Dynamo Moscow and their local rivals Torpedo was called off in September when fans threw fireworks and smoke bombs onto the pitch.
Torpedo were thrown out of the competition with a technical 3-0 defeat in the match and were ordered to play their next three league home matches behind closed doors.