KEIR RADNEDGE in DOHA: Ex-referee Roberto Rosetti blew the final whistle on a sports summit here with a positive prediction for the 2018 World Cup as a contrast to two days debating the darker arts.
The two and half years since FIFA’s hosting award have been marred by occasional incidents of crowd racism and fan violence. But Rosetti, the Russians’ refereeing supremo, believes progress has been achieved towards a brighter future.
He conceded: “Unfortunately we have had a couple of fan incidents at Euro 2012 before the Russia-Poland match and also this season at the match between Dynamo Moscow and Zenith when the goalkeeper of Dynamo was struck by a firework and the referee followed the correct procedure to abandon the match.”
Rosetti then added, however: “Everything in Russia is changing.
“For example the government – this came direct from the President Vladimir Putin – introduced a new law against negative forces in football. It’s very strict about prohibiting matchfixing.
“Also the federation has taken strong measures after the crowd problems: now we have another new law that, if you want to buy tickets you must show your passport or it is impossible.”
Rosetti also thought Russian fans were gradually discarding the angry old image of racist behaviour.
He said: “I arrived in Moscow18 months ago a few months after the situation with Roberto Carlos of Anzhi. It was a difficult moment.
“But, honestly, in these last 18 months nothing had happened and there has not been any difficult moment. Our police are now working in a very strict manner and are very serious about crowd control inside the stadia.”
That demonstration of state strength is one of the reasons Rosetti has no doubt that the 2018 World Cup will secured for visiting fans both inside and outside the stadia.
He said: “It will be safe. The Russian federation has introduced a new strategy for the development of football between 2013 and 2020. All of Russia is involved because 2014 is very close and 2018 is the final target.”
Rosetti wasted no time, on his arrival, in tightening up on the referee organisation system to cut down on opportunities for matchfixers.
He said: “My target was to change their mentality. Now Russian referees are totally professional and now I have organised the appointments system so they know their matches only four days in advance. Before, they knew up to a month ahead and that was too much.
“Also now we have the teams of match officials all travelling together to a match, sometimes a very long journey.
“This gives them all security together and protect them against any problems along the way because they must be totally neutral and focus only on the technical aspects of the game.”
Even the crowd vista within Russian league grounds is starting to change progressively for the better.
Rosetti recalled: “When I arrived in Moscow there were no women and children in the stadia but now finally we are starting to see them because football should be a show, like in Germany and England, and we have to give families the possibility to enjoy the matches.”
The former FIFA referee harbours only one particular regret: “I wanted to learn Russian but still, after two years, I find it a very difficult language.”
That apart, Rosetti is excited about the next five footballing years in his adopted new homeland.
He said: “Russia is a great place. I live in Moscow and it is an unbelievable city. But, having been in St Petersburg and Siberia and many other places I can say it is an extraordinary place and I’m sure the 2018 World Cup will be a good promotion for a wonderful country.
“The Russian people are awaiting the great event with a lot of enthusiasm and I’m sure it will be an equally great success.”
** ICSS Securing Sport conference
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