Russian MP praises football hooligans

  • 14/06/2016
Violence between Russian and English fans in Marseille has plagued Euro 2016 (Reuters)
Violence between Russian and English fans in Marseille has plagued Euro 2016 (Reuters)

A senior Russian football official and politician has praised his country's football hooligans, claiming they were defending the nation's honour and that it was "normal" for fans to fight at matches.

"I don't see anything wrong with the fans fighting," Igor Lebedev, a member of both the Russian Football Union's executive committee and the lower house of Russia's federal assembly.

"Quite the opposite, well done lads, keep it up!"

Mr Lebedev blamed the French authorities for the trouble that marred the Euro 2016 game between England and Russia, and criticised other team officials for speaking out against their fans.

"In nine out of 10 cases, football fans go to games to fight, and that's normal.

"The lads defended the honour of their country and did not let English fans desecrate our Motherland.

"We should forgive and understand our fans."

French authorities said about 150 hard-core Russian fans took part in the violence in Marseille.

The city's chief prosecutor said some of the Russians involved in the worst of the violence had been trained to fight.

The Russian hooligans, who often refer to themselves as 'ultras', belong to an organised tradition of hooliganism which has its roots mainly around clubs in Moscow and St Petersburg.

They belong to "firms" modelled on what they view as the 1970s heyday of English soccer fans' thuggery.

After Saturday's clashes, some posted photos of themselves on social media holding stolen English supporters' flags - some spotted with blood - as trophies.

Many are tattooed with nationalist and Orthodox Christian slogans. Some have links to white supremacist far-right groups and, at matches in Russia, have unfurled Nazi flags and taunted black players by throwing banana skins on to the pitch and making monkey sounds.

Although Russian authorities have banned the worst offenders from domestic stadiums, high-level political criticism of their behaviour has been rare.

Russian soccer fan sites were on Monday awash with praise for what they portrayed as a famous victory over soft English soccer hooligans in France.

"The complete victory of our hard core in Marseille," was how Spartak Moscow's Fratria fan club described the clashes, linking to a video of the violence.

AAP