Russian Soccer Official Praises Hooligan Fans for ‘Defending the Honor’ of Motherland

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The Associated Press

A top Russian soccer official in Moscow praised the hundreds of Russian soccer fans who rampaged through the streets in two French towns wrecking havoc and attacking fans of rival teams. The official complimented the rowdy fans for “defending the honor” of Mother Russia.

“I don’t see anything wrong with the fans fighting,” Russian football union member Igor Lebedev wrote on Twitter. “Quite the opposite, well done lads, keep it up!”

Lebedev, who belongs to the nationalist Liberal Democratic party, serves as a member of parliament and as deputy chairman of the Russian parliament, said he couldn’t understand why violent Russian fans should be punished.

“I don’t understand those politicians and officials who are criticising our fans. We should defend them, and then we can sort it out when they come home,” Lebedev tweeted.

“What happened in Marseille and in other French towns is not the fault of fans, but about the inability of police to organise this kind of event properly,” he said.

The politician and soccer official added more to his Twitter thoughts in a subsequent interview saying, “In nine out of 10 cases, football fans go to games to fight, and that’s normal. The lads defended the honour of their country and did not let English fans desecrate our motherland. We should forgive and understand our fan.”

“Our fans are far from the worst; it’s unclear why a lot of media are trying to say our fans’ actions were shameful. You should be objective. If there had been no provocation from English fans, it’s unlikely our fans would have got into fights in the stands.”

Lebedev’s comments come after days of massive brawls between football fans that erupted in several locations in France in the opening days of the Euro 2016 soccer tournament.

On Saturday and Sunday several hundred English and Russian fans squared off in Marseille, hurling beer bottles and chairs and drawing volleys of tear gas from riot police who struggled to contain the skirmishes in the narrow streets of the Vieux Port (Old Port). The brawls left the streets looking like a war zone.

European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, condemned the brawls. “People engaging in such violent acts have no place in football,” its statement read.

Dozens of people were injured during the melees, some seriously.

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