What awaits England fans during a World Cup in Russia?

In a Moscow pub flashy with British football memorabilia, a Russian believer of internal side CSKA was happy final week to encourage English fans formulation to ride to this summer’s World Cup. Konstantin, or Kostya for short, says he doubts there will be assault given a toughest Russian hooligans have already mislaid their ambience for fighting England supporters.

“It’s like being a towering climber,” pronounced Kostya, a member of one of a Russian capital’s distinguished CSKA “firms”, after recalling how a organisation of Russian fans crushed by a fortuitous of English fans in Marseille in Jun 2016, using impassioned violence. “Once you’ve reached a summit, we don’t do it again. There’s no indicate in assault them again. So they don’t have to be fearful to come to Russia, nothing’s going to happen.”

Kostya pronounced he was in Marseille during Euro 2016 nonetheless did not take partial in a fighting. He pronounced that Russia supporters had always wanted to take on a England fans, who had a standing bolstered by renouned films and books. It was a doubt of honour and reputation, he said, like a foe for a “world’s strongest hooligan”.

Ultimately, he said, a Marseille battles had amounted usually to a vale feat given a issue brought a vicious crackdown on Russian hooligans from troops before a World Cup.

The summer of 2018 does not feel like a many portentous impulse for a eyes of a universe to be destined towards Russia. For many England fans, speak of a World Cup in Moscow has been soured by those clashes in 2016, as good as incidents of racism, and a litany of vital general disputes, from a dispute in Ukraine to a haughtiness representative conflict in Salisbury, that a British supervision has blamed on a Kremlin.

Geopolitical tensions and a diseased bruise have already driven down British tourism in Russia. Maya Lomidze, a executive executive of a Russian Association of Tour Operators, told a Observer that a series of British tourists had forsaken by an normal of 10% any year given 2014.



The Luzhniki track in Moscow, one of 12 venues for a World Cup. Photograph: Dmitry Serebryakov/AFP/Getty Images

The final month has brought uninformed incidents. A series of reporters reported conference gorilla chants destined during several of France’s black players – Ousmane Dembélé, N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba – during a accessible in St Petersburg opposite Russia final week. Both Fifa and Russia have launched investigations.

And afterwards there is a poise of England supporters abroad. Twenty-five were arrested after contrary with troops in Amsterdam before their accessible with a Netherlands final month. Some threw splash bottles during police. It all looks a bit volatile. Yet Russian journalists, commentators, and even hooligans here sneer when asked about a probability of vicious assault this June.

“No corruption to a French police,” pronounced Dmitry Navosha, a conduct of a reputable eccentric website Sports.ru, creation anxiety to a mayhem in Marseille, “But a Russian troops reason large sporting events with a lot some-more crew and they are a lot tougher.”

In Russia, for instance, it’s not surprising on compare day for some-more than a thousand proof police, colloquially called “cosmonauts” for their complicated helmets, to mount shoulder-to-shoulder all a approach from a metro to a nearest football stadium. Alcohol sales are criminialized in whole neighbourhoods.

Several of those who spoke to a Observer done anxiety to a comparatively incident-free Manchester United and Liverpool fixtures in a Champions League in Russia final autumn. (There are rumours that CSKA fans competence come to subsequent week’s compare opposite Arsenal in T-shirts that review “Novichok-Tour 2018: To be continued”. But troops competence not reason that an arrestable offence.)

“There’s a lot of domestic speak brazen of a tournament,” pronounced Viktor Gusev, a distinguished sports commentator who will be covering a matches in June. “But we consider that when a matches indeed start that’s all going to go into a background.”

More than a decade has upheld given Russia non-stop a bid to horde a 2018 World Cup. In 2010, Vladimir Putin, giving a singular debate in English, pronounced he was “honoured from bottom of my heart” that a nation had been selected to theatre it. At that time, a boss was Dmitry Medvedev, Russia was recuperating from a 2008 financial predicament and oil prices averaged some-more than $70 per barrel. The World Cup preference was done “long before a vicious proviso of quarrel with a west”, Navosha said.



Andrei Arshavin celebrates Russia’s leader opposite a Netherlands during Euro 2008. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Fast brazen 8 years, and most has changed. Relations between London and Moscow are during their misfortune given a cold war. Putin has mislaid calm with a west. And it doesn’t seem like a successful World Cup can do most to change that.

To a certain degree, a contest is a vestige from a bygone, somewhat some-more trusting past, when Putin competence still have believed that Russia could woo a west by successfully putting on status sporting events and eventually be supposed into a bar of good nations as an equal. That clearly no longer interests him.

But a contest will go on. Twelve venues in 11 cities are hosting matches this summer, including odd traveller destinations such as Saransk and Rostov. From an infrastructure standpoint, a attempt is even some-more commanding than a Winter Olympics, that cost a supervision an estimated $50bn. Indeed infrastructure – with some stadiums still not ready, notwithstanding being due to reason matches in only 3 months – can be a huffy subject: Russian officials still bristle when they remember criticisms from unfamiliar reporters over a preparations for a 2014 Winter Olympics (a BBC sketch of a singular lavatory case with dual toilets lifted sold ire).

The World Cup, meanwhile, would uncover a successful poise over Russia’s immeasurable expanses and one of a normal problem areas: transport. It would also lift mystic value.

“I consider a strange thought was a proof of Russia’s mass for both a outward universe and a domestic audience,” Navosha said.

As to a football itself, Russians are hedging their bets. Perhaps Russian football’s biggest impulse in a final decade came in a quarter-finals of Euro 2008, when a immature patrol braggadocio a pre-Arsenal Andrei Arshavin, scored twice in a final mins of additional time to win a thriller opposite a Netherlands. In St Petersburg, thousands of fans jubilantly poured out of bars and cafes onto a streets as nonetheless Russia had only won a World Cup.

Russia haven’t done it past a organisation stages in general foe given then. Gusev, a commentator, saidthat Russia’s youngest era had not nonetheless constructed new stars, and that this was a weakest side a nation had fielded “since we was a boy”.

“The Russian fun goes ‘so who are we going to base for after a organisation stages?’” Gusev said. When it came to bar football, he said, he guessed around 80% of fans also watched a English Premier League.

Despite a assault in Marseille in 2016, there is something of a bend for British hooligan culture, or a mythicised chronicle of it, in Russia. Russian “firms” mostly give themselves British names, for instance.



Green Street, a hooligan film that some Russian fans seem to have used for inspiration. Photograph: Shutterstock

“I don’t know if we get this in a UK, nonetheless these Russian ultras, a ones who don’t get football but fighting, it’s an imitation, roughly a mimic of a British hooligan subculture,” Navosha said. “It’s like in [hardman author] Dougie Brimson, in films such as Green Street or The Football Factory.” Kostya, a football fan, grew adult in a troops family nearby Moscow and went to his initial CSKA diversion scarcely dual decades ago.

Before a troops beefed adult their presence, he said, networks of CSKA fans would couple adult on diversion days and scour a city “trying to find a biggest organisation of Spartak guys to quarrel them”.

Now, many of a fights were pre-planned and hold in forests, he said. They were mostly attended by a new multiply of Russian hooligan who eschews ethanol and mostly goes by churned martial humanities or other fight training.

“Fighting in a timberland is not hooliganism,” pronounced Kostya, who pronounced he did not attend in those fights. “The indicate for me is to go to some nation or city, drink, have some fun, and if someone is aggressive, we give them a answer. And that’s it.”

Fights have also turn some-more dangerous. Losing could land we in sanatorium for several months, Kostya said. (In 2016, a French troops pronounced a assault had been “almost paramilitary”.)

The troops response had been aggressive, Kostya said, with famous brawlers receiving “prophylactic visits” and being forced to pointer contracts observant that they would stay divided from other hooligans. Others have reported searches during their homes and arrests. It has been called unprecedented.

“I consider it will be quiet,” Kostya pronounced of a entrance summer. “I unequivocally wish normal fans to come to a country, to suffer a culture, suffer a travel.”

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