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World Cup 2018: FARE ready for post-tournament challenges in Russia

16 July 2018 14:54

One of the social media themes easily detected after members of the media and fans alike thoroughly enjoyed themselves at a wonderful World Cup in Russia was the "what was all the fuss about?" post.

Travellers from western Europe headed to Russia fully versed in tales of hooliganism and against a news backdrop of Vladimir Putin's regime being linked to sinister acts from chemical attacks to electoral medalling.

A heavy police and security presence, along with the vetting allowed by FIFA's Fan ID system, meant football violence was never likely to stain the tournament, leaving fans from around the world to take in the imposing grandeur of Moscow, the elegance of St Petersburg and a nationwide party with a warm and welcoming public.

The fear for those pushing to tackle discrimination against ethnic minorities and the LGBT community in Russian football, such as Pavel Klymenko of the FARE Network, is their ongoing fight might be lost beneath the plaudits.

"Certainly for Russia this tournament has been a charm offensive," Klymenko told Omnisport at FARE's Diversity House in St Petersburg – a project that also featured a Moscow location throughout the tournament, providing a safe space for watching matches, parties, exhibitions and discussions.

"Many international fans have enjoyed the tournament but there have always been these underlying issues that many people felt were swept under the carpet.

"On the surface, you had an amazing experience of partying in central Moscow, bringing flags and booze to Red Square.

"But when someone wants to express an opinion or a protest… there have been instances of people going out into Red Square with just a blank sheet of paper and being arrested for that."

Pussy Riot claimed responsibility for the pitch invasion that interrupted Sunday's final between France and Croatia, and the art-punk protest group outlined demands for the release of political prisoners, an end to "illegal arrests" at rallies and the renewal of political competition in Russia via accompanying social media posts.

Additionally, Pussy Riot cited the late poet Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov to paint a contrast between benevolent policing during the World Cup and an anticipated return to a hardline approach.

"We can talk about someone having a great time on holiday in the Maldives but if you ask the locals how it is living in the Maldives they will tell you the story of poverty, of authoritarian government and religious oppression," Klymenko said.

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