Fri, Dec 27, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Rise in fan violence casts shadow over World Cup

Brazil and Russia are struggling to control a rising tide of soccer violence as the global spotlight shines on the future hosts of the next two FIFA World Cup tournaments

By Owen Gibson  /  The Guardian

Eastern Europe: Polish ultras remain a threat after last Euro

By Jonathan Wilson

The hope in Poland was that the improvement in stadiums brought by last year’s Euro soccer tournament — not just those grounds that hosted matches during the tournament, but also those used as training venues — would inspire a change in attitude similar to the one that occurred in England with the wave of stadium construction in the 1990s. However, the country’s ultras remain a dangerous and violent force.

Only last week, Zaglebie Lubin’s Slovakian midfielder Robert Jez was beaten up outside his house by three ultras, while other fans threw bricks at a car driven by the goalkeeper Michal Gliwa. Latvian forward Deniss Rakels has also received threats as Zaglebie struggle against relegation.

“If you don’t play, you should be scared,” ultras have taken to chanting at home matches.

Ultra groups remain a major issue in both Hungary and Romania, where hooligan groups often loosely espouse far-right politics, with antisemitism and anti-Roma racism rife. Others are just violent: one of the most notorious incidents came two years ago as a Petrolul Ploiesti fan ran on to the pitch during a game against Steaua Bucharest, ran up behind the defender George Galamaz and punched him in the side of the head, breaking his zygomatic bone and leaving him temporarily deaf in his right ear. Steaua goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu then suffered burns to his back after being hit by a flare thrown from the stand and the game was abandoned.

So disillusioned have fans in Croatia become with their soccer establishment and, in particular, a voucher scheme that tries to regulate away supporters, that the two main ultra groups of Dynamo Kiev and HNK Hajduk Split — the Bad Blue Boys and Torcida — have declared a truce for the first time since the end of the war. At a recent derby in Zagreb, members of both groups attended the game together as a strangely harmonious show of dissent that made a mockery of the voucher system.

Russia: fan violence law for 2018 World Cup buildup

By Shaun Walker

Petty scuffles and small-scale brawls are still common at Russian league matches, and there is a strong link between fan club ultras and the nationalist far right. Ever since hundreds of fans fought pitched battles with police in a central Moscow square in 2010 after the murder of Spartak Moscow fan Yegor Sviridov by a group of Dagestanis, police have been keeping a closer eye on the potential for fan violence.

A new law will come into effect next month, promising much harsher penalties for fans who “disturb public order,” with fines of up to £300 (US$431), threats of community service and a ban on attending games for up to seven years. Police will draw up blacklists of fans who are banned and all stadiums must be fitted with closed-circuit television to keep an eye on incidents.

The law has been in discussion for months and is an attempt to tackle violence and racism in the runup to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

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