Russian Soccer Team Faces Punishment Over Fan Violence

Jun 14, 2016
Originally published on June 15, 2016 6:39 am
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

There's a huge international soccer tournament going on in France right now, and there have been some ugly moments - a couple of big fights between English and Russian fans. Russia's soccer team has actually been fined and could even be thrown out of the Euro 2016 because of its fans. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Moscow.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Violent fans began clashing in the streets before Saturday's match between Russia and England in Marseille, but the move that drew down punishment from European soccer officials came in the stadium after the match ended in a tie.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Booing).

FLINTOFF: Russian fans, some with their faces covered, shot fireworks or flares, then charged through a thin line of security guards and attacked the English side of the stands. A French official blamed what he said were about 150 well-trained Russian fans who'd come prepared for violence. But some Russians quickly denied that. This is Vladimir Markin, the press secretary for the Russian equivalent of the FBI.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VLADIMIR MARKIN: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: "If they'd been prepared," Markin said, "the Russian fans would've been able to resist provocations. These are just ordinary guys who gave into their emotions." Some Russian fans say they were provoked because English supporters were singing rude songs about Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova and President Putin. A member of the executive committee of Russia's football union even had words of support for the Russian fans.

Igor Lebedev, who's also a deputy speaker of parliament, said he didn't see anything wrong with fans fighting. On the contrary, he wrote on social media, our guys were great; keep it up. Russia's been fined $168,000, and if there's any more violence inside the stadiums, the team will be on the next flight home to Moscow. Corey Flintoff, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.