Mes­sage is to love your team, not hate op­po­si­tion

The Press and Journal (North-East) - - NEWS -

Rus­sian foot­ball’s an­tidis­crim­i­na­tion tsar Alexei Smertin has urged fans to be “friends with ev­ery­one” dur­ing the World Cup.

For­mer Chelsea star Smertin, who played in the Pre­mier League be­tween 2003 and 2009, said fans should fo­cus their at­ten­tion on sup­port­ing their own team, rather than at­tack­ing the op­po­si­tion.

He was speaking at the launch event of a Di­ver­sity House, a safe space for mi­nor­ity and LGBT fans in cen­tral Moscow, just hours ahead of the kick-off of the tournament.

Rus­sian do­mes­tic foot­ball has been plagued by prob­lems with racist and dis­crim­i­na­tory chant­ing in the stands, while the Rus­sian FA was re­cently fined for abuse di­rected at France star Paul Pogba dur­ing an in­ter­na­tional friendly.

Speaking at the event or­gan­ised by the anti- dis­crim­i­na­tion Fare Net­work, he said: “We work together on the pitch as a team, stick together, play... with your friends. Friends with ev­ery­one.

“This is the prin­ci­ple which we need to im­ple­ment to the stands, to the streets, to ev­ery­one who loves foot­ball.

“Be­cause if you come to the sta­dium you need to sup­port your team, not (be) against the op­po­site side.”

Smertin said the tournament gave Rus­sia a chance to show it­self to the world.

“To me, if you asked me 10 years ago about the World Cup when I was a pro­fes­sional player, I would have said we need first place, sec­ond place, third place, gold medal,” he said.

“Get through the group, win the first game, as many as we can.

“Now, I don’t think like this. Of course I have shak­ing legs be­fore kick­off be­cause I’m a foot­ball player.

“I think this is a huge op­por­tu­nity, a pos­si­bil­ity to show­case to ev­ery­one how we can host the World Cup.

“Be­cause our coun­try is quite his­tor­i­cally mul­ti­cul­tural, we re­spect ev­ery­one.

“It is a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity to in­vite ev­ery­one to show them our cul­ture, our his­tory, our warmth and this is the most im­por­tant.”

Alexei Smertin urged fans to be peace­ful

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.