- Russian Football Union board member Igor Lebedev continues to push a rhetoric that attempts to normalize hooliganism.
- Lebedev, also a politician who represents the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, published a proposal on the official party website that pushes for hooliganism to be decriminalized.
- Oorganised brawls, Lebedev claims, should be considered “sport.”
Last year, the UEFA Euro 2016 championship in France saw a new breed of hooligan emerge as hundreds of national supporters took “mixed martial arts [MMA] gloves and gum shields” to assault groups of rival fans. Some reports suggested that 19 Britons were hospitalised after just one clash.
Russian Football Union board member and politician Igor Lebedev famously quipped at the time that he “did not see anything terrible about fans fighting. On the contrary, keep it up!“
Now, Lebedev, who represents the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, has attempted to downplay hooliganism by claiming those involved are simply passionate supporters.
On the party’s official website, Lebedev said: “Our fans… are not hooligans. They suffer for and promote their clubs. They are football fans in the truest sense of the word. Yes, they sometimes fight but only with colleagues and not civilians.”
Lebedev added that a union for fans should be organised so “soldiers” can battle. Lebedev noted that combat sports are contested between one combatant and another, yet the “popular and fun Russian sport [hooliganism]” can be a “wall to wall” fight between large teams at an agreed location like a stadium.
Russia is due to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup and, just one year prior to its commencement, Lebedev said: “Russia could become a pioneer in a new kind of sport. Fans arrive and start picking fights.”
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