MOSCOW, February 17. /TASS/. A recently BBC documentary about Russian football hooligans’ alleged preparations to stage an unwelcome reception for England football fans at the 2018 FIFA World Cup is ungrounded and can be dismissed as a fearmongering fable, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko told TASS on Friday.
The UK-based BBC television channel released a documentary late on Thursday night in which Russian hooligans were warning British football fans about a ‘festival of violence’ in response to the notorious clashes in the French Riviera city of Marseille last year during the 2016 UEFA Euro Cup games.
"We need to take an unbiased look at the situation as we are currently weathering a media smear campaign," Mutko, who is also the president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), said in an interview with TASS. "We are all grown-up people and we do know well that every large country, whether its England or Russia, has its own problems in various spheres of daily life."
"Big countries have numerous problems, including difficulties among youngsters, whose ways of self-fulfillment can be unpredictable. We have this problem in Russia as well," Mutko, who oversees issues regarding sports, tourism and youth policies in the country, explained.
"Today’s football hooligans’ movement is a youth movement and a subculture often vulnerable to extremist influence," the deputy premier said. "But why cook up a fearmongering fable out of it?"
"After watching the documentary one would get the impression that the Russians would be seeing foreigners for the first time ever," Mutko continued. "Our country is one of the world’s most visited, not to mention that we rank in the top ten in terms of millions of tourists visiting us. Russia is also one of the safest countries in the world and the film directors are well-informed about this fact."
"We all remember well the preparations for hosting the (2014) Olympic Games in Sochi and remember that the common objective was to discredit Russia," Mutko said adding that now the Western media blitz continues its attacks to smear "(2018 FIFA) World Cup and to do everything possible to make a sequel to this film, however, it will be a road that leads to nowhere."
Announcing the upcoming film on Thursday night, titled "Russia’s Hooligan Army", the UK-based daily, The Guardian, wrote that: "Clashes between Russia and England supporters, centered around the countries’ group-stage meeting in Marseille, blighted Euro 2016 last summer, leading to fears among senior British government officials that the violence unleashed by Russian hooligans was sanctioned by the Kremlin."
The daily also said that the film "shows groups of young men engaging in prearranged brawls against rival firms and preparing physically in order to be ready for next year’s tournament."
Numerous altercations were reported between football fans at the major European football tournament held in France between June 10 and July 10, 2016. The most notorious brawls broke out between Russian and English fans ahead of the June 11th match. Clashes erupted on June 9 in Marseille, peaking on the day of the match - June 12.