Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Troublemakers Have Made Following England in Russia More Dangerous; in Association With

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Troublemakers Have Made Following England in Russia More Dangerous; in Association With

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Evans

THEY used to call hooliganism 'the English disease.' Most of the time it was just a nasty but passing ailment, whose symptoms were drunkenness, jingoism and boorishness.

The modern Russian version is a much more virulent and dangerous disorder. We had a glimpse of it in Marseilles two years ago. At the Euros, organised mobs ran amok around the French port city. Many of them had spent months getting ready for street combat.

England's 'No Surrender' set largely prepare for nonsense in a foreign city by throwing down six pints. Their Russian counterparts' idea of a session is a couple of hours on the heavy bag in the gym. It makes for a combustible mix. Throw in a dash of politics and the consequences are frightening.

The antics of some England fans in Amsterdam would, in isolation, be disheartening but relatively trivial. Despite some ugly incidents, the reputation of supporters travelling with the national side has grown more positive for more than two decades. Even last week's events would not have been so concerning most of the time.

The proximity to the World Cup magnifies the issue. The transgressors in the Netherlands are putting any England fans intending to go to Russia in jeopardy.

Moscow had mixed feelings about the behaviour of their nation's violent young men in France.

Vitaly Mutko, the sports minister, initially downplayed the incidents, while Igor Lebedev, an executive committee member of the Russian FA, tweeted "well done lads, keep it up". Saner voices understood, however, that trouble during the World Cup would badly damage the host nation's reputation.

Since the Euros, those with knowledge of Vladimir Putin's mindset have suggested hooliganism will not be a problem. Putin, they said, will keep the wilder elements on the leash.

The recent diplomatic crisis over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury has changed things. Hostility towards the United Kingdom who will be manifested by England at the World Cup has grown significantly in Russia. …

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