MOSCOW: Russia’s football and security authorities have promised to step up action against ongoing hooligan behaviour after the latest outburst of trouble writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

One of the concerns expressed most often during Russia’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup was the behaviour of fans, in particular with regard to racist and anti-ethnic violence.

Racist incidents continue to be reported by players but the weekend’s trouble saw a league game between Moscow Dynamo and champions Zenit St Petersburg abandoned in the 37th minute after Dynamo goalkeeper Anton Shunin was injured by a firework.

Police said later that 53 people had been arrested including one Zenit fan suspected of having thrown the firework which halted the game in which Dynamo were leading 1-0.

Local media reported that some 30 Zenit fans had attacked Dynamo supporters before the match in the Khimki suburb of Moscow.

Some media outlets quoted stadium stewards as saying firecrackers may have been smuggled into the ground by Zenit female supporters in condoms pushed inside their bodies. They claimed to have found torn rubber contraceptives in the women’s lavatories.

The Russian Premier League has called an emergency meeting. A statement said: “Taking into consideration the recent negative tendency of acts of hooliganism by some football fans, which caused dangerous consequences for other supporters and players, the league decided to discuss the case at an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday.”

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev described the violence as “not an incident but a crime and furthermore a premeditated crime.” He added: “There cannot be anarchy. People need to be put in prison for this sort of thing.”

Alexander Zhukov, president of the National  Olympic Committee and deputy speaker of parliament, said lawmakers were already discussing new legislation to curb fan violence.

New Russian Football Union president Nikolai Tolstykh said: “We will collect all the reports and documents and analyse them to investigate this terrible case thoroughly.”

Eyesight and hearing problems

Shunin, a 25-year-old Russia international, was treated in hospital for burns to his cornea and right ear. He said: “Something had landed near my feet. I looked down and at that moment the firework blew up into my face. Right now I have some problems with my vision and hearing.”

Zenit, who trailed league leaders CSKA Moscow by three points before Saturday’s matches, could be handed a 3-0 defeat as well as a fine. Dynamo were in 10th place, 18 points behind CSKA.

The St Petersburg club  – champions for the last two seasons, sponsored by energy giant Gazprom and who host Malaga in Champions League Group C on Wednesday – threatened to pull out of the championship if punished severely.

They blamed Dynamo for allowing “any people from the street” to buy tickets for the visiting team’s sector.

Executive director Maxim Mitrofanov said: “I don’t understand why Dynamo try to make us the guilty party. I know that our shareholders and sponsors would be very unhappy if we were treated unfairly. In that case, we will consider pulling out of the championship.”

In September a fourth round cup-tie between Dynamo and local rivals Torpedo was abandoned when fans threw fireworks and smoke bombs onto the pitch. Torpedo were expelled from the cup with a technical 3-0 defeat and were ordered to play their next three league home matches behind closed doors.

Last month, a group of Dynamo fans in camouflage used paintball rifles to shoot at their own out-of-form players at the club’s training ground.

Russia was awarded host rights to the 2018 World Cup by the FIFA executive committee in December 2010. Preparatory work is already well under way.

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