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MOSCOW, June 1. /TASS/. Russia will certainly provide warm reception for all international guests coming for the matches of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, which is due to kick off this month across the country’s four cities, Alexei Smertin, a famous Russian ex-footballer, told Russia Today (RT) television channel.
Security and fans behavior before, during and after football matches is in particular focus of the Russian football authorities as the country is currently undergoing full swing preparations for hosting the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
"It is important to tell all (international) football fans and the rest of spectators, who plan coming to Russia and render support to their national teams during this important game of football, that they will definitely receive a warm reception," Smertin, the RFU’s (Russian Football Union) head of the department on the fight against racism manifestations in football, said in a video address to RT.
"We will be glad to see people from all of the continents and are offering them our hospitality, friendliness and warmth," the former footballer, who is also the country’s ambassador for both of the upcoming FIFA Cups, said.
"Russia holds the stance of zero-tolerance to any form of discrimination just like it is stipulated by FIFA regulations," he said. "The recently reported cases can be rather attributed to individual acts rather than of the whole society."
"These obvious facts (of race-hatred violations) can be attributed to any other country, and our apparent task is to minimalize such manifestations," Smertin said.
"First of all and most important, that it is done through the efforts of the educational work in order to achieve the respect, which is the one of founding principles," he said. "It must be the respect to all fans, to the teams coming to the Confederations Cup and the World Cup. This is extremely important."
Addressing journalists on Wednesday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko ruled out any case of fans misconduct at matches of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, saying that "Russia is completely safe country" and expressing confidence that local football fans behave decently during the home tournament.
His statement regarding the fans behavior came in response to the incidents regarding the country’s football fans behavior during the 2016 UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Cup in France last summer.
Numerous clashes were reported between football fans at the major European football tournament held in France between June 10 and July 10, 2016. The most notorious altercations erupted between Russian and English fans ahead of the June 11th match. Brawls began on June 9 in Marseille, peaking on the day of the match - June 12.
Law enforcement authorities resorted to tear gas, smoke pellets and water cannons to disperse the brawlers. According to reports, more than 30 people had been injured in violent altercations, with four people sent to hospitals after sustaining severe injuries.
On June 14, French policemen stopped a bus with over 43 Russian football fans en-route from Marseille to Lille, where their national team played its second group stage match against Slovakia.
Chairman of the RFU’s Control and Disciplinary Committee, told TASS last week that Russian football leagues finished last season free of any racially-motivated violations during their matches, a fact that speaks volumes for the country’s improved fan culture.
According to Grigoryants: "Our football is progressing, the fans are progressing and it is particularly important ahead of the Confederations Cup and the World Cup."
The FIFA Confederations Cup, dubbed the ‘Tournament of Champions,’ is also viewed by experts as just a rehearsal, with only one year to go to the FIFA World Cup.
This year’s tournament will be held between June 17 and July 2 at four stadiums in Russia and they are Spartak Stadium in Moscow, St. Petersburg Stadium, Fisht Stadium in Sochi and the Kazan Arena in Kazan.
Participants in the 2017 Confederations Cup are hosts Russia, 2014 FIFA World Cup Champions Germany, 2015 Copa America Champions Chile, 2015 AFC Asian Cup Champion Australia, 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup winners Mexico, 2016 UEFA Euro Cup champs Portugal, OFC (Oceania Football Confederation) Nations Cup victors New Zealand and 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations Champion Cameroon.