Prior to the World Cup, there was a genuine fear that anyone travelling to Russia would be beaten up by Russian hooligans and left for dead, mainly because of the trouble that occurred between Russian and English fans in Marseille at Euro 2016 which left two England fans in comas.
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It turns out that these worries were completely unfounded though as there hasn’t been any trouble whatsoever at the tournament, with many people complimenting the Russians on how well organised and safe it has been. One England fans even has a story about how the Russian ultras bought them drinks and hung out with them, even offering to return some of the flags that they stole from Marseille.
Here’s what Matt Mayberry had to say about his encounter in Volgograd before England’s first match against Tunisia:
We met some Volgograd Ultras and they were returning flags stolen in Marseille. They wanted no trouble.
They got us drinks and treated us all night. We met and drank with six of the group from Marseille.
They were desperate to return stolen flags and shake everyone’s hand to thank them for Russia.
They said everyone that visits is a guest and shall be treated like one, no matter what has happened before.
When we went to the bar they got up, shook hands with us and told us to feel at home.
They asked if there are any fans of Sunderland among us.
They were looking for them because they wanted to give them a flag taken in France with the emblem of `Sunderland’.
We shared with the Russian contacts and it seems that the flag was returned.
We drank a lot of alcohol, a few dozen shots with vodka, and the fans themselves treated us.
None of us expected that they would be so hospitable and friendly.’
Everywhere I met friendly people – at the airport, and the hotel, and on the streets.
I will bring friends and family to Russia.
Wow. Sounds like a whole world away from what went down a couple of years ago. Kinda insane that they were so friendly to be honest but I doubt Matt has any reason to make this up and it seems to coincide with everything that we’ve seen in the media from the tournament. Maybe we were wrong about the Russians all along?
For more of the same, check out this politician who actually wanted to make football hooliganism a spectator sport. Bizarre.