- 100 days to Confederations Cup
- Tournament a precursor to 2018 World Cup
- Concerns over racism, hooliganism, homophobia
- Russia spends over $10B on World Cup
Russia’s football fan culture has also come under considerable scrutiny due to hooliganism and racist abuse of black players.
With 100 days to go before the start of the Confederations Cup — a FIFA tournament that acts as a precursor to next year’s World Cup — just how ready is Russia to host arguably the world’s biggest sporting event?
A festival of violence or football?
Russian football fans were blamed for the trouble, which centered around the group-stage match between Russia and England. More than 100 fans were injured, and 30 hospitalized.
Indeed, the lives of five were in the balance following street clashes described by one England fan as a “war scene.”
Lebedev, also a board member of the Russian Football Union (RFU), said such a move “could turn fans’ aggression in a peaceful direction.”
Further highlighting the extent of the problem Russian authorities face was the fighting between hooligans from CSKA Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg during a Russian Premier League game last weekend.
‘Full trust’ in Russian authorities
To watch World Cup and Confederations Cup matches, every supporter will need to carry the cards, which consist of a photograph and contact details and also act as visas.
FIFA told CNN that it had “full trust” in the arrangements being made by the Russian security authorities.
It said Russia had been exchanging information with European football’s governing body UEFA and organizers of Euro 2016 about the trouble in Marseille.
“Fans from all over the world can surely expect a friendly and festive atmosphere in Russia during the Confederations Cup and the World Cup,” a FIFA spokesperson said.
Mark Roberts, the head of Britain’s football policing unit, recently held a meeting with Alexey Sorokin — CEO of Russia’s World Cup Organizing Committee — and said “we are ready” for any problems which may arise.
Lawrence Tallis, producer of a film which portrays Russia in a more pleasing light than how the country is often shown, told CNN that the hooligans he had spoken to had predicted a quiet tournament.
“The police presence at the tournament itself will ensure that nothing like the scenarios predicted will come to pass.”
Russia, an example of global tolerance?
Players and fans from 32 countries will descend on the world’s biggest country for the first World Cup to be held in Eastern Europe, but how accepting will Russia be of its visitors?
In recent years, a number of black footballers playing in Russia’s top flight have complained of repeated and persistent racism.
“If (racism) happens in the World Cup, it will be really gross and really ugly,” he said at the time.
The most recent report published by researchers from Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) and the Moscow-based SOVA Center logged 92 incidents of discriminatory displays and chants by Russian fans in and around stadiums during the 2014-15 season — an increase on the total of 83 for the previous two seasons put together.
FIFA said it had been in contact with the RFU since 2015 and was “pleased” that Russian authorities had acknowledged racist incidents in football were “part of a serious issue that needs to be tackled.”
“In terms of sensitizing and raising awareness, the hosting of the FIFA World Cup is a great opportunity,” a FIFA spokesperson told CNN.
In February, former Chelsea and Russia midfielder Alexei Smertin was named the RFU’s anti-racism and discrimination inspector.
But in announcing the former footballer’s new role, the RFU said Russia should be an example of “global tolerance both on and off the football field.”
Tallis said Russia should be given the chance to show it can be a responsible host.
“What we’re saying is that we refuse to buy in to any arguments or claims that encourage us to shut ourselves off from a nation of 143 million complex and diverse individuals, that ask us to succumb to paranoia, to feed the mistrust and misunderstanding, and to refuse the opportunity to get to know people better.”
What about gay fans and players?
Russia is not the only country where sexual minorities suffer discrimination.
The LA Galaxy midfielder made it clear he thought traveling to those countries was a risk for gay fans and players.
A year prior to Rogers’ statement, LGBT rights had taken center stage at the Winter Olympics, held in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, after the Russian government banned the promotion of “non-traditional” sexuality in 2013, widely seen as an attack on gay rights.