MOSCOW, March 31. /TASS/. The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) should refrain from mooted penalties against the Russian national football squad over the team’s fans behavior during the recent 2016 Euro Cup qualifier against Montenegro, a senior Russian football official said on Tuesday.
Russian Football Union’s (RFU) President Emeritus Vyacheslav Koloskov said in an interview with TASS that the European football organization’s mooted penalty of three home matches for the Russian team in front of empty stadiums was unnecessary as the squad’s fans behaved moderately last Friday.
"I was present at that match and I can say that the violations of behalf of the fans sitting in the so-called Russian sector were not that serious and should not entail tough sanctions," Koloskov said. "Yes, indeed at that point Russian and Montenegrin fans were seen hurling stands’ seats at each other."
"But, first of all, the hurls were single and there was not a mass nature about it, secondly, the conflict was promptly settled by the police," he said. "Moreover, it is necessary to establish he provoked the incident."
UEFA announced on Monday that it had opened disciplinary proceedings against Russia and Montenegro over Friday’s Euro 2016 qualifier in Podgorica. The organization said it initiated disciplinary proceedings against Montenegro for the setting off and throwing of flares and objects by their spectators and for holding a match that did not get played in full.
Apart from that, UEFA opened disciplinary case against the RFU for throwing flares and other objects by its fans.
Alexey Papkov, a senior lawyer with the RFU, told TASS on Tuesday that the Disciplinary Committee of UEFA would gather to discuss measures concerning the suspended qualifier between Russia and Montenegro after April 7.
"The Montenegrin [football] association should submit with the UEFA its official account of events during the match before April 7," Papkov said. "Therefore the date of UEFA Disciplinary Committee’s session on the issue will be announced after April 7."
Igor Akinfeyev, a goalkeeper of the Russian national football team, sustained severe injuries on Friday night during the Group G qualifying match against Montenegro after one of the Montenegrin fans hurled a flare at the Russian footballer. The goalkeeper was carried away on stretchers and the referee had to take both teams off the pitch for about 30 minutes. The injured Russian player was taken to a hospital in Podgorica. After a while the referee ruled play must go on.
The incident occurred seconds after kick-off. Akinfeyev suffered concussion and a burn of the neck. The match had to be eventually terminated in the 68th minute with no goals scored by either side after an object was thrown at Russian defender Dmitry Kombarov. Montenegro are now faced with a 0:3 technical defeat and disqualification of the home stadium.
The Russian team, including Akinfeyev, returned to Moscow after their plane landed at Sheremetyevo airport on early Saturday morning. Upon arrival Akinfeyev told the media he was well.
Russia’s head coach Fabio Capello said commenting on the match that the game should have been halted instantly after the first major incident that followed seconds after kickoff.
He explained that was precisely the kind of decision he and all players had been waiting for. Play should have been discontinued at once, he added.
Russia held the third place in its Group G of the 2016 Euro Cup qualifiers with five points after four matches played before the encounter with Montenegro. The national team was ranked behind Austria (10 points/ and Sweden (6 points). Montenegro’s national squad also had five points after four qualifiers played.
The Russian national team started with 4-0 victory over Liechtenstein in September, had two 1-1 draws in October against Sweden and Moldova and lost to the Austrian side 0-1 in November.
Russia's match last Friday in Podgorica was its 300th competitive fixture — including games as the Soviet Union. The team’s previous 299 UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup matches ended with the record of 170 won, 66 drawn and 63 lost.
Russia experienced a string of setbacks over the past decade failing to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany and 2010 championship in South Africa to the great dismay of the Russian football fans.
Things changed when Italian phenomenon Capello took over the team as the head coach in July of 2012 and managed to help the Russian national squad to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The team, however, failed to clear the first stage of the much-anticipated global tournament putting their coach in the center of stern criticism and raising serious concerns in the country about the team’s performance in the next World Cup, which would be hosted by Russia in 2018.
However, Russia did not severe the contract with Capello after the Russian team’s performance at the World Cup in Brazil and the Italian manager also decided to stay with the Russian squad as the head coach until the year of 2018 as stipulated by the contract terms.
Last year Russian football clubs had often been the subject of UEFA’s penalties over their fans misconduct during the matches.
The Russian Football Union’s (RFU) disciplinary committee had been also very active imposing penalties on domestic football clubs for their fans misconduct, which often manifested race-hatred behavior, during the games.
Fans behavior during football matches in Russia was in particular focus last May after a football player suffered a concussion at the hands of fans during the match time. Dozens of Zenit St. Petersburg FC fans rushed to the pitch of the Petrovsky Stadium in in Russia’s second largest city on the 87th minute of the match on May 11 attacking players as Zenit was losing its home match 2-4. One of the fans punched in the head Dinamo Moscow FC captain Vladimir Granat, who was later hospitalized and diagnosed with concussion.
One of the cases in the chain of penalties might have seemed strange but it was true as Lokomotiv Moscow FC was fined last October 5,000 rubles ($126 at that time’s exchange rate) because a stray dog ran out in the pitch during the club’s home match against Amkar Perm FC.
Security and fans behavior during football matches is under close attention of the Russian football authorities also because the country is in full swing preparations for hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2018.