Monday, 13 December 2010

Anti-Caucasian football riots in Moscow expose World Cup problem

Central Moscow erupted in rioting this weekend as nationalist football hooligans attacked police officers and state buildings. The riots are the result of an explosive mix of ethnic tensions, ultranationalism and football that has cast doubt over the decision by FIFA a week ago to select Moscow as the host of the 2018 World Cup. Today the tensions continue. Hundreds of anti-riot police have amassed around Red Square and the Kremlin.

In Russia, as in much of Europe, football hooliganism often goes hand-in-hand with white supremacy and neo-nazi movements. The spark that lit the fuse for this particular riot came several weeks ago, when an ethnic Russian football fan was killed during a fight with a group of men from the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation. He was a fan of the Spartak Moscow football team and a member of one of its most aggressive fan groups - or "firms" as the Russian hooligan groups like to call themselves. The Caucasian man arrested for the murder was subsequently released, prompting outrage from the Spartak Moscow fans who say the police are favoring the ethnic minorities.

Today Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a televised address to the nation that the violence threatens the stability of the entire state, saying that "actions that are directed at fomenting enmity and hatred based on racial, religious or national tensions," are especially dangerous. The mob throughout Moscow on Saturday were chanting "Russia for Russians," an increasingly frequent slogan. The According to reports, a Central Asian man was killed by a mob of ethnic Russian youths on Saturday, beaten to death.

But even more than exposing the increasing xenophobia and racial tension in Russian society as it struggles to deal with the Islamist seperatist movement in its North Caucausus provinces, Medvedev may be concerned about how the football-related violence will look in light of Russia winning the bid to host the 2018 World Cup last week. Not only does it appear that the Russian government is having trouble getting a grip on the increasingly ugly nationalist movement, but it appears the government may not be able to control football violence. This would be a worrying reality for a country about to host the World Cup.

1 comment:

Captain Kid said...

i have to disagree for the first time:
"In Russia, as in much of Europe, football hooliganism often goes hand-in-hand with white supremacy and neo-nazi movements."

football is primarily a sport for the working class and as such it just reflects our society. of course there are right-wing firms - I won't negate that - because fascist thoughts cannot be eradicated from our society, but there are at least as many left-wing and apolitical firms as right-wing ones. just think of how many football games there are each weekend throughout europe without fascist connotations and just because you hear of right-wing riots here and there, that doesn't mean that's the rule. not even close to it.