Fan violence at Euro 2016

The violent behaviour and neo-Nazi gestures of various fan clubs have tarnished the image of the European Football Championship in France - and drawn harsh criticism. Commentators warn that politicians often exploit the nationalism of fan associations for their own purposes.

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Jutarnji list (HR) /

Politicians know how to use hooligans

The government in Zagreb plans to decide on measures against hooligan violence today, Monday, after Croatians fans rioted during Friday's match between Croatia and the Czech Republic. How hypocritical, Jutarnji list comments:

“The connections between hooligans and economic and political power structures are an open secret - from Sicily to Russia. The leader of the 'Ultras', Alexander Sprygin, has appeared with Putin, bellows 'Sieg Heil' or 'Russia for the Russians' every now and then and openly admits that the 'fans are a powerful and strong tool of those in rule.' The state has long since realised that fan associations are the biggest manifestations of patriots and is exploiting this. So it's pretty hypocritical that precisely those who demonstratively haven't applied the existing laws against hooligans are now are announcing tougher rules.”

Kathimerini (GR) /

Neo-Nazi hooligans as bad as IS terrorists

In view of the clashes and excesses on the part of violent fans in the first week of Euro 2016, columnist Pantelis Boukalas draws a parallel between hooligans and IS terrorists in Kathimerini:

“It is this kind of blind belief that allowed ISIS-style extremism to emerge in France without a single jihadist having to move from the Middle East. The start was made by English fans who crossed the Channel not to watch a game but to chant in drunken arrogance 'ISIS, where are you?' – thus delivering the most brutal and callous of insults to the French, whom they perceive as their eternal enemy. They were followed by German neo-Nazis, who arrived in France waving Nazi banners and chanting, appallingly, 'We’re invading again.' Their ideological allies - though rivals on the pitch - the mayhem-causing Russian fascists, are not missing either. So Europe has its own form of ISIS, its neo-Nazis, who share the same 'values:' hate, blood, annihilation of the other.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Fear of Moscow will win out

In the end Uefa will opt for a mild course against Moscow because it is afraid of Russia's reaction, Mirosław Żukowski of the daily paper Rzeczpospolita suspects:

“It's hard to imagine Russia will really be banned from the European championship because of the hooligans' criminal excesses. Uefa has threatened to do this but it is well aware of the potential consequences of such action. The situation was similar with the International Association of Athletics, which has problems with Russia because of doping. The decision to disqualify it from the Olympic Games in Rio should have been reached long ago, but it has been postponed because this is Russia we are talking about. Although these organisations should be hammering the table with their fists, a certain fear of Moscow prevails.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Russia too lax against hooligans

The Financial Times explains why Russians have played such a major role in the hooligan riots in France:

“What makes Russia different is the extent to which their nationalistic hatred and sense of being at war with the world, which chime with official attitudes, are tacitly or explicitly encouraged by the government. Russian officials rarely condemn violence and do not prevent fans with a history of assault from travelling to matches abroad. ... And Russia’s hosting of the next football World Cup in 2018 should be placed in jeopardy if it does not restrain its hooligans.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Moscow must make hooligans see reason

Uefa opened disciplinary proceedings on Sunday after Russian fans attacked English fans in Marseille's Vélodrome stadium on Saturday night. Russia must punish its hooligans just as harshly as England has in the past, writes senior commentator and football enthusiast Jindřich Šídlo in Hospodářské noviny:

“England was banned for five years from the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1986. The government declared the hooligans public enemies, and the clubs had to invest huge sums in security. Then Uefa Euro 1996 went off there without a hitch. In rich countries football has become entertainment for the whole family. ... The Russian Football Union now wants to punish its 'fans'. In Marseille, however, it wasn't drunk people at work but well-organised commandos, which also explains why none of them could be arrested and brought before a judge. ... Russia has two years - until the next Fifa World Cup - to make the criminals from Marseille and their admirers see reason.”

Trouw (NL) /

Uefa also to blame for riots

Uefa has threatened to disqualify Russia and England from Euro 2016 but the association itself is partly to blame for the riots, Trouw points out:

“Disqualification is certainly a real option. But there are two worrying aspects. First, it would divert attention from Uefa's responsibilities and secondly it is not a solution that would prevent rioting among fans once and for all. For instance it's unbelievable that Uefa only started thinking about banning alcohol in the stadiums after the riots began. Is commerce all that matters, so that first of all they try out whether selling alcohol works? Banning alcohol is a necessary step but certainly not the only one needed to ensure that a football championship goes smoothly.”

Presztízs Sport (HU) /

Rowdies ruining football

Hooligans are tarnishing the image of an entire sport, blogger Péter Benkő writes on Presztízs Sport:

“Football is probably the most passionate game in the world. It's not a problem when the fans get carried away by their emotions, when they cheer and scream and horse around. That's why football is what it is. … The problem is that many people get the passionate fans mixed up with the hooligans. Those who rioted in Marseille are not fans. They were simply driven by the urge to cause trouble and get into fights, and that has nothing to do with football. These hooligans are not at all passionate, they're just totally stupid. They really should be removed from the stadiums. The damage that hooliganism does to football is huge.”

Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

Dangerous nationalism

Alcohol and football make for a dangerous cocktail that explodes when a third element is added, Salzburger Nachrichten explains:

“The most dangerous ingredient this weekend was nationalism. Already highly toxic, it became the basis for the violence. The myth of a besieged fatherland and the threat from without, of heroic defence and one's own country as a bulwark pave the way for this. 'Fuck off Europe', the English bellowed, 'We're voting for Brexit'. Meanwhile Russian fans supposedly made fun of the English flags. The Russian hooligans' attack on the English section of the stadium was turned into a heroic act of self defence: '250 Russian fans beat off an attack by several thousand English fans and forced them to retreat' the Russian state-run agency Vesti wrote jubilantly, according to The Guardian newspaper.”

Népszabadság (HU) /

No such thing as total security

Despite the fact that the French security forces are on the highest level of alert there are still gaps in the protection at the Euro 2016 games, warns the daily paper Népszabadság:

“The riots and clashes between Russian and British hooligans have demonstrated that there can be no such thing as total security. They can check every food container and post so many security officers armed to the teeth on every corner that even Chuck Norris would despair, but it's impossible to guarantee security and order everywhere. … In one place people without weapons managed to lay waste to entire streets where top-level security measures were in place. … By doing so they have made it clear to all that even the most intensive precautionary measures can't guarantee security.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Keep tackling hooliganism after end of Euro 2016

Uefa has threatened to ban Russia and England from Euro 2016 if scenes like those in Marseille are repeated. But the problem can't be solved in the course of a tournament, La Libre Belgique believes:

“The images showing the clashes between rival supporters bring to mind dramatic memories. Above all they remind us - to the extent that this is necessary - that hooliganism remains a deep wound in the world of football. Some countries believed they'd tamed the violent 'fans' by banning them from the most popular stadiums and championships. In fact all that has been done is to shift them to events that are less in the public eye, whether in England, Russia or elsewhere. It's not now, in the heat of the competition, that this wound can be healed, even if France and Uefa will do what they can to prevent new excesses. After the Euro 2016 each participating nation must treat this malady, eradicating it at its roots.”