Manic Russian thugs target England fans at World Cup 2018

  • An hour-long documentary will explore the extent of the violence last summer  
  • It will also look ahead to the World Cup next year which will be hosted by Russia 
  • A man who claims to be a leader of hooligans says England fans will be at risk
  • Russia's Hooligan Army is on BBC Two at 9pm on Thursday night 

Across the river from the Rostov Arena, which will stage five matches at next year's World Cup, a Russian football hooligan offers a chilling warning to England's travelling fans.

'For some it will be a festival of football, for others it will be a festival of violence.'

It is the concluding line in a horrifying hour-long BBC documentary to be aired on Thursday night. The film tracks down the perpetrators of violence inflicted on England supporters in Marseille last summer and looks at what these highly organised, expertly trained gangs have planned for a tournament on their own turf.

Masked Russian hooligans who will feature in a documentary to be aired on Thursday night

Masked Russian hooligans who will feature in a documentary to be aired on Thursday night

Wearing a mask, the man who claims to be the leader of the '200 professionals against 2,000 amateurs' on Marseille's streets — a martial arts specialist, a member of the 'Orel Butchers' and a fluent English speaker — suggests any England supporters travelling among other male fans 'should calculate on getting their a**** kicked'.

In the same interview he boasts with pride that he kicked an England fan squarely in the head in the 'Battle of Marseille', surmising that his victim might have been one of the two left in comas.

Film-maker Alex Stockley von Statzer gains extraordinary access to these Russian ultras, filming their boxing gym-style training sessions and organised, illegal 'forest fights' against gangs from other football clubs.

Across the river from the Rostov Arena, a Russian hooligan explained that England fans will be targeted at the 2018 World Cup

Across the river from the Rostov Arena, a Russian hooligan explained that England fans will be targeted at the 2018 World Cup

A hooligan is captured stamping repeatedly on the head of a rival, only to then help his opponent to his feet and shake his hand when the senior members of the gangs call time on the barbaric encounter. One of the leaders says it is not their intention to leave the young men 'crippled' in these fights but to 'nurture' them for the World Cup.

The Russians revere the thuggish element of England's supporters. 'They are the forefathers of hooliganism,' declares one gang member and this, the film explains, is why they will be targeted next summer. The English represent the ultimate scalp.

There are links, claims Stockley von Statzer, between the hooligans and President Vladimir Putin. A man called 'Vasily The Killer', the head of the Nazi-saluting 'Mad Butchers' of Spartak Moscow, claims the '150 Spartans' who terrorised Marseille 'were special military forces of football hooligans sent by Vladimir Putin to conquer Europe'.

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter (left) and deputy prime minister of Russia Igor Shuvalov at the World Cup 2018 bid announcement in 2010

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter (left) and deputy prime minister of Russia Igor Shuvalov at the World Cup 2018 bid announcement in 2010

'The current state of today's English hooligans is the same as your western culture and civilisation,' adds Vasily. 'I mean deep in the garbage bin.'

An unnamed Russian hooligan says: 'I am going to give some free advice to the guys that might come here. Learn the history of our country. We are at war every hundred years. We are natural born warriors, it's in our blood, but come to this country with a sword and you will die by that sword.'

Putin has promised that 'the 2018 World Cup will be up to the highest standards' and the man who claims to have led the gangs in Marseille believes the Russian authorities will move to 'lock them down' ahead of the World Cup.

Vladimir Putin has promised that the '2018 World Cup will be up the highest standards'

Vladimir Putin has promised that the '2018 World Cup will be up the highest standards'

But previous attempts to address hooliganism have not proved successful. A response to widespread violence in the 1990s was the formation of the All Russian Fans Association. According to the film, an official ARFA charter flight from Moscow to Marseille carried many of the thugs involved in the running battles with England fans and three board members were jailed in France, one for two years.

ARFA has been shut down and its leader, Alexander Shprygin, was arrested on his return from France. But it is with more than a hint of pride that he reflects on the sickening events at Euro 2016.

'For 20 years since the Soviet Union has collapsed a new generation of Russian citizen has grown and among those who were on the plane to Marseille were champions in combat fights. The English were fighting a trained machine that swept them away.'

Russia's Hooligan Army is on BBC Two at 9pm on Thursday night. 

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By World Staff Writer 02/15/2017 20:25:00
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