Con­cerns re­main af­ter Ukraine awarded UEFA Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Rus­sia and Ukraine’s po­lit­i­cal ri­valry will ex­tend into the world of foot­ball next year as they try to outdo each other in host­ing two of the sport’s big­gest events.

Ukraine’s cap­i­tal Kiev will play host to the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal at its 70,000-ca­pac­ity Olympic Sta­dium less than a month be­fore Rus­sia’s 2018 World Cup be­gins. The de­ci­sion was an­nounced by UEFA on Thursday.

Just like in neigh­bour­ing Rus­sia, there are con­cerns over foot­ball-re­lated racism and vi­o­lence in Ukraine.

While a game at the sta­dium Sun­day be­tween Dy­namo Kiev and Zo­rya Luhansk ap­peared to pass with­out in­ci­dent as Dy­namo lost 1-0, the club has been re­peat­edly pun­ished by UEFA for vi­o­lence, racism and pitch in­va­sions by its fans at the Olympic Sta­dium. There were also safety vi­o­la­tions re­lated to blocked stair­ways at the sta­dium.

At a Cham­pi­ons League game against Chelsea in Oc­to­ber last year, a gang of sup­port­ers be­lieved to be from the hard­line na­tion­al­ist Rody­chi group roamed the stands for much of the first half. They car­ried out un­pro­voked at­tacks on black fans and other sup­port­ers who op­posed the ram­page.

UEFA or­dered Dy­namo to play its next two Cham­pi­ons League games be­hind closed doors, but there was fur­ther con­tro­versy when the sta­dium’s di­rec­tor, Volodymyr Spil­nichenko, sug­gested on Ukrainian TV he could con­sider seg­re­gat­ing black fans into a sep­a­rate sec­tor of the sta­dium to avoid fur­ther racist in­ci­dents. Spil­nichenko later said his com­ments had been wrongly in­ter­preted and he did not back seg­re­ga­tion.

Af­ter be­ing awarded the 2018 Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal, sta­dium man­age­ment did not re­spond to ques­tions from The As­so­ci­ated Press on its se­cu­rity plans for the game and whether se­cu­rity had been tight­ened to stop fur­ther vi­o­lence.

The Olympic Sta­dium pre­vi­ously hosted the fi­nal of the 2012 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship, which saw lit­tle trou­ble in Ukraine, the co-host of the tour­na­ment with Poland.

When Dy­namo hosted Napoli at the Olympic Sta­dium in the Cham­pi­ons League group stage Wed­nes­day, small groups of fans from both teams ap­peared to have tried to at­tack one an­other, but were thwarted by stew­ards and fences, ac­cord­ing to pic­tures posted in on­line fan fo­rums.

How­ever, there was ev­i­dence of an at­tack on vis­it­ing Turk­ish fans at a bar in the Ukrainian city of Odessa ahead of a Europa League game there.

Ex­te­rior view of the Olympic na­tional sta­dium in Kiev, where the 2018 Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal will be played Photo: AP

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