Russian football in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Russian football hasn’t had the best couple of weeks. The country are gearing up to host the World Cup in 2018 and plenty of questions are being asked about FIFA’s decision to bring the World Cup to Russia.

Russian football has been in the spotlight for the last couple of weeks after an incident involving champions CSKA Moscow. On October the 23rd they hosted Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League, Manchester City managed to defeat the home side 2-1. The post match interviews and news were then full of questions regarding racist chanting in the stands. City captain on the night was Ivory Coast international Yaya Toure, who reported racist chanting aimed at him to the referee during the game and the incident was then reported to UEFA. This has sparked a huge debate about Russia and the World Cup, not only has this incident highlighted the problems that still exist in Russian football it also shows just how much work is still left to be done before 2018. Luckily for Russia they have time on their side.

Both sides have been arguing their case to UEFA, Manchester City trying to prove the chanting happened (which it did), while CSKA Moscow say no such thing happened, even Toure’s fellow Ivory Coast international Doumbia came out and denied that his clubs fans were racially abusing Toure or other balck players. CSKA director has also recently come out and said that the British media were exaggerating because they are jealous that Russia have been given the World Cup and their against Russian football. In end UEFA have given CSKA punishment for their fans actions, weather the punishment was good enough is a different story. CSKA have been told they’ll have section D at the Arena Khimki closed for their next Champions League home game against the holders Bayern Munich. This punishment has sparked further arguments as it doesn’t actually stop the racists from attending games, all it means is that they can sit somewhere else in the stadium. This has put UEFA under a lot of pressure.

Kuban fan burns flag of Dagestan.

Kuban fans burns flag of Dagestan.

On Monday Kuban’ Krasnodar hosted a struggling Anzhi side. The hosts ended up being 2-0 winners but it was overshadowed after Anzhi’s official twitter page posted an image showing Kuban fans burning a flag of Dagestan. The club posted the image along with “We will demand the punishment of these scum”. Since the match the two fans responsible for the act have been arrested and both fined 1,000 rubles, Kuban have been fined $15,000 for the incident. They were also fined for other incidents during the match, 40,000 rubles due to their fans chanting profanity, on top of that they were also fined 10,000 rubles for their fans use of pyrotechnics. Anzhi were also fined 30,000 rubles for chants their fans made throughout the match.

This was the second time something like this has happened this season, in September Zenit St. Petersburg fans were seen burning a flag of the Chechen Republic, this resulted in a fine of $15,000. 12 fans were arrested for the flag burning, however only one of the offenders were fined 1,000 rubles.

Spartak fans clash with police during a match against Shinnik.

Spartak fans clash with police during a cup match against Shinnik.

To top off the criticism that Russian football has received lately, on the night where CSKA received their partial stadium ban, Spartak fans ran riot during their cup match against Shinnik. During the second half an unidentified man ran onto the pitch and ran towards the stands where Spartak fans were based, soon after a riot broke out. Fans started throwing chairs and fighting each other as well as the police, fans also attempted to get onto the pitch. The game was stopped and overall the game lasted 2 and a half hours. The police finally put an end to the rioting when they brought in water cannons and started firing water at the fans causing trouble. 78 arrests were made. Once everything was back in order the game restarted and Spartak went through thanks to a Kombarov penalty.

Just as you thought the incident couldn’t get any worse, it did. After the game disturbing images where spread across the internet, the images showed Spartak fans as they unfurled a flag displaying a swastika.

Over the last few days it’s been a case of who’s to blame, plenty of fingers have been pointed in lots of directions. Reports have said the fans are to blame and they need to take more responsibility, stadium security and police have come under fire for being unprepared and using water cannons and we’ve also heard that the clubs are responsible for their fans. Those are some of the few things that have come up and all quite valid points.

What’s the punishment? Spartak have been ordered to play two games behind closed doors and fined 600,000 rubles which is about £12,000. The hosts Shinnik were also punished for this, they’ve perhaps been punished worse, despite their fans not doing anything wrong. They’ll have to play three games behind closed doors and fined 500,000 rubles which is just under £10,000. Shinnik have written an open letter to the Minister of Sports, Vitaly Mutko appealing the decision. A statement on their website reads “”The decision to leave Yaroslavl fans without the possibility of visiting the three home games of the team – very severe, inconsistent and contrary to logic and common sense”. You can’t argue with that, they should have been punished for the stadium not being ready to host this big match, but I personally don’t believe they should have to play three games without any fans.

Spartak have also released a statement on their website urging their fans to come forward with any information they have on the fans that held up the swastika flag, those with reliable information will be rewarded.

These last couple of weeks have been a nightmare for Russian football and has certainly raised even more eyebrows across the world. Only time will tell how things will improve before the World Cup, but one thing is for certain, it needs fixing sooner rather than later.

Article for footyscene.

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