From terrorist threats to hooliganism, fractured political relationships and everything in between, the tournament has been marred in controversies since it was awarded to Moscow.
In the summer of 2016, amongst the bustle and excitement of the European championships, a chorus of “God save the Queen” echoed through the cobbled streets of Marseille. A group of English fans had gathered, with their voices tinged with a drunken slur, to support their country. The song was soon replaced by cries of anguish and fury. A group of Russian ultras had laid siege on the English, resulting in the arrest of 20 and injuring a further 35.
This was almost two years ago, and the relationship between the Russians and several of the countries taking part in the Worl Cup has only worsened, with claims of Russia having gained the chance to host the tournament by underhanded means, along with several non-footballing reasons.
Thus, although every fan and player alike will be waiting eagerly for the World Cup to kick-off at the Kazan Arena in June, there will also be a lingering apprehension and fear of just how potentially unstable this edition of the quadrennial competition could be.
The Russian Ultras have made it clear that the English fans are not welcome in the country
The Russian ultras have started their preparations with several of them having taken to a native social media site, Vkontakte (VK) to post threats to opposition fans, by claiming to have started “Operation Mundial”. The situation has escalated to such seriousness that the FA has issued warnings to the English fans who will be travelling to Russia in support of their team.
As such, The Russian authorities will likely have to over-police games and surrounding areas in an attempt to maintain a modicum of peace and order during the tournament.
Yet another factor that may affect the atmosphere at the games is the potential boycott of the competition by dignitaries from various countries such as England and Iceland. The dignitaries of Iceland have confirmed their absence form the World Cup in response to Britain’s accusations that the Kremlin had orchestrated a nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, while simultaneously endangering the lives and health of 130 people in the city of Salisbury in England. The boycott of the tournament will likely offend the Russian public and prompt protests and violence.
The rumours that narcotics would be allowed into the stadiums during the tournament also started gathering steam in March this year. It was later clarified that supporters would be allowed to carry a vast range of narcotics with them into the stadiums, ranging from marijuana to cocaine, provided that the drugs were prescribed with an official doctor’s note and were in their original packaging. However, the very presence of such substances at the competition will pose a threat to the fans in the stands and could well make a bad situation much worse.
Furthermore, the radical Islamic organization, ISIS has also issued threats to the countries and the fans travelling to the competition with several Pro-ISIS pages posting threatening messages and even posters of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar being beheaded.
This wouldn’t be the first time IS have attacked a city hosting a major footballing event as we cast our minds back to the horrors of the attack in Paris in 2015. The authorities will have to maintain constant vigil to ensure that nothing of the type takes place at the World Cup.
Football hooliganism has been an ugly face of competitive football ever since its inception, with the English being its primary exponents for several years. However, this time they might well find themselves facing the brunt of the hooliganism thanks to threats issued by Russian Ultras that they should visit the country at their own peril.
The World Cup is the pinnacle of the footballing life of players and fans alike. Through the years it has brought us eternal moments, moments that we can tell future generations of. However, football on its own does so much more. The game transcends the colour of our skin, the language we speak or where we’re from.
It can save a young life, it can bring warring soldiers to a truce, it unites the world. We pray that this edition of the World Cup is remembered for the game alone and for all the good that it does, rather than the circumstances that it is being played under. We at Khel Now wish all the fans who will be in the stadiums all the safety and happiness the beautiful game can bring.