Euro 2012: Russia chides fans after violence at opening game

Russian fans cheer their team on in their  win over the Czechs.  Picture: AP
Russian fans cheer their team on in their win over the Czechs. Picture: AP
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Russia’s football federation last night called on its fans to behave themselves after Uefa opened disciplinary proceedings into reports of violence by supporters at the team’s opening Euro 2012 match.

Video footage emerged over the weekend of Russia fans fighting with stadium stewards in Wroclaw, and Uefa also says it is investigating reports of abuse directed at Czech players during Russia’s 4-1 victory on Friday evening.

In a statement posted on its website, the Football Union of Russia called on its large contingent of travelling fans to “Respect yourself, your home and your team”. The statement praised the majority of its fans for their boisterous support of the team but said political statements “have no place in the stands” and told supporters to cooperate fully with match organisers.

“Some people in the stadium carried out acts which were unworthy of real soccer fans. There is no place in the stands for people who use sporting events to declare personal, political or other points of view,” the statement said.

“The federation and the Russian national team strongly ask all real fans to oppose the provocative acts of hooligans and to fully cooperate with match organisers when it comes to questions of security.”

The incidents flared before Russia takes on Poland in a highly-charged Group A match in Warsaw tomorrow – a Russian national holiday when fans plan to march from the city centre to the stadium.

Anti-racist experts appointed by Uefa to monitor matches reported on Saturday that fans verbally abused Czech defender Theodor Gebre Selassie, who is black, and has said he was fully aware of the alleged abuse. “I noticed that,” Selassie said. “It was nothing extreme. I’ve experienced much worse.”

Uefa’s disciplinary panel will review the case against Russia – using “security reports and available images” – on Wednesday.

The alleged improper conduct relates to “crowd disturbances, the setting off and throwing of fireworks and the display of illicit banners,” Uefa said.

Four stewards at the stadium were hospitalised and later discharged after being attacked by Russia fans, city police said.

Online footage showed fans punching the security staff in a stadium concourse area. One steward was punched to the ground and then kicked before the fans walked away. Police and a witness who took video footage said the Russia fans became aggressive when stewards tried to capture a man who had thrown firecrackers toward the pitch.

Monitors from the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) fans’ network reported to Uefa that Russia fans also displayed a nationalist “Russian Empire” flag. The symbol was one “we take as evidence of far-right sensibilities,” FARE executive director Piara Powar said.