Tula, bedeutende Industriestadt und eines der Zentren der russischen Rüstungsindustrie liegt nur 190 Kilometer von Moskau entfernt. Mit dem Verein FK Arsenal Tula kann die Stadt seit dieser Saison auch einen Erstligisten aufweisen. Anfang April kam es zum mit Spannung erwarteten Heimspiel gegen Spartak Moskau. 10.000 Fans aus der russischen Hauptstadt nahmen diese Reise auf sich – Unser Mann in Moskau weiß von diesem Spiel zu berichten:
High spirits in Tula lead to serious injuries, fines, soul-searching
Following their recent run-in with the football authorities over an unexpected change of venue and unrest at their home game against Torpedo Moscow, events in Tula made the headlines again this month, with one fan left seriously injured after Spartak Moscow’s visit to Arsenal’s Central Stadium on 9 April.
Whether it was due to a hint of Spring in the air or the excitement of a first ever league visit to Tula for Spartak fans, an atmosphere of boisterousness appears to have surrounded the fixture from early on match day, with Lenta.ru reporting clashes between rival fans in the city centre as “at least 10,000” Spartak fans descended on the city, despite a ticket allocation for Spartak fans of only 4,500. Lenta also noted that many of these fans were in a “non-sober” state, which is perhaps unsurprising given the 17:45 kick-off time.
Inside the ground, Arsenal fans greeted their guests’ “traditionally noisy” away following with a fan mosaic, drummers and loudspeakers. An Arsenal representative also presented a traditional Russian bread and salt greeting to goalkeeper and team captain, Artyom Rebrov, as they had to Spartak legend Viktor Onopko in the clubs’ only previous meeting in the city in a 1994 Russian Cup game, when Tula were still in the second division and Spartak, the reigning champions.
Following half time, the teams were greeted not with bread and salt, but rather by a variety of flares and other pyrotechnics from the rival groups of fans, with a number of flares thrown onto the running track that surrounds the pitch and more than one firework narrowly missing the referee. Spartak fans then broke through a barrier in an attempt to attack Arsenal fans, although this was thwarted by stewards, who were well prepared for this after being caught out at the club’s previous home game against Torpedo.
The stewards were possibly less vigilant, however, in allowing an away fan to run onto the field and approach Tula manager Dmitriy Alenichev in order to present him with a Spartak scarf. As both a confirmed Spartak fan and former star of the Moscow club’s strong team of the late ‘90s, Alenichev is seen as an up-and-coming manager who could take the reins at Spartak in the future – sooner rather than later for many fans, with the club currently languishing in seventh place in the league.
In the meantime, whether due to the amount of smoke in the ground after half time or simply getting carried away by the atmosphere, first one, then a number of Spartak fans had scaled a fence by the scoreboard in their end of the ground and made their way onto the roof of the stand, remaining there for the rest of the game, despite repeated warnings over the stadium’s PA system that the game would be abandoned if they did not come down. The situation led NTV-Plus pundit, Mikhail Polenov, after a particularly wayward shot by Spartak defender Sergei Parshivlyuk, to comment that “with a shot like that he could have knocked down one of those fans who have climbed onto the roof of the stadium.”
In the end, off-target shots were less of a danger to the amateur “Spidermen” than they were themselves as, after the match, it was discovered that a fan had fallen 20 metres from the roof while trying to affix a banner. As a result of the fall, the unnamed Spartak fan, from the town of Suvorov in the Tula Region, suffered head trauma, two broken arms and a ruptured spleen. At the time of writing, the fan was said to be in a serious but stable condition following surgery.
Given the above, a football match may have seemed like a side story. In any case, Arsenal Tula were victorious on the day, with an injury time goal scored by Dmitriy Smirnov to make the score 1-0 and secure vital points for the hosts, who currently sit in 14th place in the Russian Premier League (RFPL).
In light of events during the match, the disciplinary commission of the Russian Football Union (RFS) met on 14 April to decide the fate of the two clubs involved. This resulted in a lengthy statement from commission head Artur Grigoryants, which – maybe unexpectedly for some – also took issue with the use of certain symbols within the ground, both at this particular match and by Russian fans in general, since “[Russian] clubs in European competition have been punished for this [in the past].”
Grigoryants went on to clarify that “in a variety of countries, football stadia have played host to political games by the extreme right, expressed through fans who share these views. The symbols they use the most often are the swastika, the Celtic cross, the Odal rune and the Tiwaz rune.” He further linked the use of the Celtic cross with the Ku Klux Klan and made it clear that the RFS considers displaying this symbol in a football stadium to be unacceptable.
As a result of the fan actions at the match, the disciplinary commission imposed separate fines on Spartak Moscow for the use of pyrotechnics, displaying the Celtic cross, illegal entry by a fan onto the pitch and for fans’ actions that endangered their own health and safety. Meanwhile, Arsenal Tula paid fines for failing to ensure the safety of visiting fans resulting in a serious injury, for the use by fans of pyrotechnics and for fans’ use of “offensive expressions”. In addition to the above, Arsenal will play their next home game at a neutral venue, while Spartak fans are banned from attending their next two away games (although this does not apply to women or children under 12).
Following the commission’s decision, the president of the All-Russian Supporters’ Union (VOB), Alexander Shprygin, complained that the decision by the RFS to strongly target use of the Celtic cross at football games represented a “painfully sharp” escalation, and that fans needed a “transition period” to remove the cross from view in stadia. He also noted that the symbol is not expressly forbidden under Russian law and that it was widespread during the 1990s when “children used to wear scarves [featuring the symbol]”
Expanding on his concerns, Shprygin had his own theory regarding the commission’s actions saying: “It’s worth remembering that Russia has many enemies and insinuations about the issue of racism [in Russia] are being reported on more and more in foreign media, since they want to take the World Cup away from Russia.” He also claimed that, due to the disciplinary commission’s decision, “everybody will now know what the Celtic cross looks like,” although he later stated that “88% of fans don’t even know what the Celtic cross means.” While it is unclear what his source is for this particular statistic, the author of the source article in question noted that “the number 88 is a code for the Nazi salute ‘Heil Hitler’,” and that “Shprygin himself has previously denied suspicions he is a Nazi sympathiser.”
Spartak Moscow are one of Russia’s most illustrious clubs, winning 9 Russian titles since 1992, although none since 2001. The club moved into a brand new purpose-built stadium, boasting its own metro station, in 2014, having previously played at the central Luzhniki Stadium. PricewaterhouseCoopers recently named the club “Russia’s most valuable sports brand.”
Sources: (in Russian)