Following on from the brutality of what happened in the Euro 2016 finals there has been great concern expressed towards the safety of the next World Cup. Disturbances deriving from hooliganism at the Euros predominantly involved both English and Russian fans. With the 2018 World Cup being hosted by Russia various key figures in world soccer have expressed concern over the behavior of Russian fans in particular given that they will be the home nation.
With the World Cup just over a year away as well as this summer’s Confederation Cup in Russia swiftly approaching the Russian government has made their first move into ensuring the safety of all nations. Fans will be required to hold special identity cards to attend the festival of soccer. Without the identity card, fans will not be able to enter stadiums and closed off areas. Which although it may not stop all violence, the Russian government clearly think that the fact that fans will be easily identifiable for prosecution will be enough to keep violence inside stadiums to a minimum. In my opinion and the opinion of many, this alone won’t be enough, especially as only last month a British, BBC documentary revealed that it had found Russian fans planning further trouble in the tournament. But there’s plenty of time yet and this is certainly a step in the right direction at least.
To those who aren’t particularly concerned about the possibility of violence the identity cards might seem to be somewhat of a nuisance but there is one handy benefit to all traveling fans. As well as being able to access certain areas with the identity cards they can also be used as a visa to enter Russia. Therefore making the traveling process that little bit easier.
FIFA themselves appear to be confident that the World Cup in Russia will be a success and that the troubles of the European Championships in France are a thing of the past. But let’s be honest they have to say this, they’re not going to turn around and say they expect more violence. FIFA’s director of competitions, Colin Smith has said: “What we can be sure of is that this will be a festival of football (soccer) and there is no place in such festivals of football (soccer) for those that are not here to support the sport or support the game.” In addition to this the main man, FIFA President Gianni Infantino has expressed that he is “not at all concerned” by the threat of hooliganism. It’s all well and good key figures stating that there will be no issues but given that most of the trouble in France was caused by Russian supporters it’s hard not to fear the worst. This time around there will be many many more Russian supporters in the participating cities given that they’re the hosts so in my opinion at least that poses more of a threat than they did in Russia. I don’t doubt that many potential travelling fans will be put off making the trip to Russia because of fears over violence and that’s a real shame for soccer.
The first feel we will get for what the tournament may pan out like will be during the Confederations Cup which begins in Russia in June. Eight teams will participate in the trial run including the hosts Russia and reigning champions Germany. Given the Russian government’s early moves to protect fans it’s looking likely that fan safety will be better than it was in France but after what happened there will always be worries amongst fans who just want to enjoy the beautiful game.