Commentary

Many share blame for Marseille madness

So who's to blame for the trouble in Marseille before, during and after Saturday's Euro 2016 match between England and Russia at the Stade Velodrome? Where do we begin?

Drunken English hooligans descended upon the Vieux Port, some seeking out North Africans and looking for a fight. Marseille and Paris St. Germain ultras were ready and saw the English fans as east targets. Russian thugs numbering about 300 and wearing scarves came ready to brawl with fighting equipment, martial arts gloves and mouth guards.

But what about the authorities? Who could have not anticipated that there might be trouble in Marseille. The worst trouble at the 1998 World Cup France organized came when English fans battled Tunisian fans in Marseille. Following the Euro 2016 draw in December, the England-Russia game was identified as a high-risk game, but unlike England-Wales, which will be played Thursday in Lens, a city-wide ban on alcohol was not imposed. English fans blamed the heavy-handed French police for making a bad situation worse. And stadium security failed to segregate Russian and English fans and allowed Russian fans to sneak flares into the game.

UEFA -- whose president Michel Platini was banned from soccer and general secretary Gianni Infantino now FIFA president -- opened a disciplinary case against Russia for the trouble by Russian fans after the final whistle at the Stade Velodrome and warned both England and Russia they could be thrown out of Euro 2016 if the violence continues. It labeled the situation "totally unacceptable."

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has authorized each venue to take measures to prohibit the sale, consumption and transport of alcohol on match days and the day before in areas around stadiums and fan zones.

English hooliganism dates back more than 40 years to the early 1970s, but it has been a relatively minor issue at home in recent years. What is new is the rise of right-wing Russian gangs. At Euro 2012, UEFA fined the Russian federation after fans racially insulted Czech Republic defender Theodor Gebre Selassie, who is black, and battled with local fans.

Did the fines have any effect on how the Russian federation viewed the behavior of fans?

Igor Lebedev, a member of the Russian federation's executive committee and member of the Russian parliament, said their behavior in France was "normal" and encouraged them to keep fighting.

“I don’t see anything wrong with the fans fighting,” he wrote on Twitter. “Quite the opposite, well done, lads, keep it up!”

Lebedev, instead blamed the French police.

“I don’t understand those politicians and officials who are criticizing our fans," Lebedev added. "We should defend them, and then we can sort it out when they come home. What happened in Marseille and in other French towns is not the fault of fans, but about the inability of police to organize this kind of event properly.”

Even Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko, a member of FIFA's executive council, pushed back, saying the trouble in Marseille had been "exaggerated" and added there had been "no clash."

The remarks of Lebedev and Mutko are troubling and raise questions about what kind of treatment visiting fans might receive in two years at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Hopefully, FIFA should also view these remarks as troubling and avoid being caught napping as UEFA seemingly has been.
7 comments about "Many share blame for Marseille madness".
  1. Margaret Manning, June 13, 2016 at 11:51 p.m.

    Well, I'm not booking travel to WC 2018. Germany did a great job; Brazil and South Africa did a great job. Russian seems to be looking for trouble.

  2. R2 Dad, June 14, 2016 at 12:02 a.m.

    Maybe morning kickoffs for the england and russia matches going forward? That would seem to be the least painful option. V interesting that neither Qatar nor Russia seem to be on their best behavior. Why would that be?

  3. beautiful game, June 14, 2016 at 10:57 a.m.

    Toothless "suspension" by FIFA. More scary for the soccer fan is that French security was ill prepared for the obvious. Why not a 24-hour court where foreign law breakers face a judge immediately and get deported in a cattle train.

  4. Wooden Ships replied, June 14, 2016 at 2:07 p.m.

    I concur I w. we called them cattle cars back in the Army. There were no seats, SRO. Immediate expulsion would have the greatest effect.

  5. Christopher Tallmadge, June 14, 2016 at 1:33 p.m.

    The staements from Russia are disgraceful. If I were king of soccer I would move WC 2018 and ban Russia through Euro 2020 as they clearly have no intention of reining in their gangs.

  6. Wooden Ships replied, June 14, 2016 at 2:16 p.m.

    Very true CT. I am worried for the future of FIFA. The awarding of Russia and Qatar epitomized the reckless corruption. Russian nationalism has been on the upswing under Putin. It's ugly and dangerous. There is sound and historical reasons for the renewed joint military exercises in some of the former eastern block countries. I don't think we've seen the worst of it.

  7. David Mont, June 15, 2016 at 7:37 a.m.

    Lebedev is not just a member of the Russian parliament, he's a deputy speaker. In addition, the Russian thugs came to France on planes chartered by the Russian Football Union. This was not just a bunch of hooligans fighting. This was a well-planned at the highest level of Russian soccer (and possibly the government) operation.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications