There’s little doubt that hooligans do little to make a sport event any more interesting, in fact they shame all the fans of the national team they choose to fight for.
It is sad to note that the start of the 2016 UEFA European Championship has been marked with major clashes among soccer hooligans that has left a bitter taste in the mouth of all those who have been waiting for this sporting event to finally begin.
Even before the start of EURO 2016, English soccer fans were demonstrating an imperial tinge, starting a true riot in the French town of Marseille. According to media reports, British hooligans have not been simply fighting local Ultras, they were loudly mocking representatives of the local Muslim community, which resulted in a massive fist fight.
The aggressive actions of British hooligans before EURO 2016 were described in much detail by both The Guardian and The Independent. It’s been reported that they were chanting “ISIS, where are you?”, singing insulting songs, and destroying the private property of local residents. They even assaulted a bus that was painted in the colors of the Russian flag.
On Friday, clashes broke out between Russian and English soccer fans. French riot police were immediately deployed in large numbers in Marseille, trying to pacify the fans with tear gas and water cannons.
At the end of the match between Russia and Britain, a total of 30 Russian fans manage to break through a cordon of stewards, entered the sector with English fans and started a fight there. At the same time British journalists reported that the riots provoked the British fans who insulted the Russians and even desecrated the Russian flag.
In Nice, Polish and Northern Ireland also started clashes and it’s been reported that a number of people were seriously injured.
Moreover, according to the publications of Deutsche Welle and La Voix du Nord, more than 50 German football hooligans assaulted Ukrainian fans in Lille, throwing bottles, chairs and smoke bombs in their direction. Hooligans were chanting right-wing slogans and waving flags of the “Third Reich”, and even attacked a reporter of the German television channel Sport1.
It seems that there will be no end to violence during EURO 2016, therefore it’s imperative that the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) organizes a thorough investigation of all incidents and punish those responsible. Still no one has so far provided an explanation as to why the European soccer championship has become so violent.
It is no secret that sport competitions between various countries inspire an acute competitive atmosphere – it’s not just a demonstration of success in the physical education of the contenders’ population. It’s been know for a long time that sporting events is a sort of alternative to military campaigns, which allow one to identify themselves as a member of the strongest nation without the use of lethal weapons and massive casualties.
Unfortunately, in recent years, the sport has increasingly become subjected to political meddling. During the days of the Cold War, sporting events were held hostage by the political standoff between the two systems: in 1979 the Soviet Union sent troops to Afghanistan, and the next year the United States, along with other Western countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics. In 1984 the USSR announced it wouldn’t be sending its athletes to the Olympic games in Los Angeles.
Today, the Cold War is over but political meddling in sports refuses to become part of history. Instead, an ever increasing number of sporting events are being subjected to the political pressure. As an example, one can recall the demands that prominent European politicians made about the need to boycott the Ukrainian part of EURO 2012, and the continuous attempts by Brusseles to deprive Belarus of the right to hold the World Ice Hockey Championship back in 2014.
Racism and nationalism are now becoming commonplace among sports fans which we have clearly seen in Marseille, with British fans insulting both Russians and local Muslim communities, or in Lille, where German hooligans have clearly shown their racial intolerance.
But should we really be surprised by such hatred? Hasn’t the West long since launched an aggressive anti-Russian propaganda campaign, and haven’t NATO’s actions and numerous speeches that Western politicians have made been aimed at threatening Russians?
Why are politicians reluctant to understand that any further military escalation between the West and Russia, China, and Iran could lead to a new major war? Why do they prefer to turn a blind eye to the fact that such a conflict could be provoked even by sports fans who have fallen victims to this recent campaign of aggressive information warfare?
It’s high time for politicians to take a seat at a the table to discuss the most pressing contradictions and points of contention between nations without any preconditions or sanctions being demanded – a better alternative than getting sports fans involved in there games. The latter deserve to enjoy their favorite national pastimes without any politicians meddling with their passion!
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”