Wednesday 20 September 2017

'The English were no angels, it was 50:50' - Russia's Artem Dzyuba on Marseilles violence

Russia's Artem Dzyuba in action against England at the weekend
Russia's Artem Dzyuba in action against England at the weekend

Ian Herbert

The Russia striker Artem Dzyuba today delivered an extraordinary interpretation of the violence that marred his nation’s match against England, accusing the “British media” of reacting “like the British supporters are like angels and behaving themselves” and that the degree of blame was “50:50.”

When The Independent put it to Dzyuba during the press conference that police intelligence suggests 300 Russian thugs launched a coordinated attack on the English in Marseilles, the Zenit St Petersburg player retorted: “French authorities gave you your information. I do have another information. The other thing is politics. We cannot say [someone] is wrong and [someone] is not wrong.”

The behaviour of the Russians in Marseilles has seen Uefa today impose a suspended disqualification of Leonid Slutsky’s side from Euro 2016 because of “crowd disturbances.”

That could mean that violence here in Lille where English and Russian fans will meet again in the next 48 hours is disastrous. But Slutsky said the team would not be expelled and there would be “no injustice.”

Dzyuba led the attack on what he saw as a coordinated misrepresentation of events in Marseille though.

He said: “I don’t understand the reaction of this British media…like the British supporters are like angels and behaving themselves. It was 50:50. I have this reaction like the British supporters are like angels and behaving themselves. There are two parts to every conflict. Everyone has to communicate. I don’t say that only Russians are the faulty ones.”

Dzyuba said he had seen only “fragments” of the video footage which shows Russian – who police said came tooled up with weapons, gum shields and mixed martial arts gloves – attacking English. “We do not know what happened in the streets,” he said. “When the Russian anthem was played people were shouting. That was not ethical at all an all – and the gestures we have received from English supporters. There are some people who come to see a game and some who come to behave as bad as possible.”

Asked if he thought the level of criticism of Russian fans was a political conspiracy, he added: “We can see things that British media are talking about 2018 and people saying they must take it out of Russia. I have these thoughts that must come up sometimes.”

He did tell Russian fans that letting off flares, as they did on Saturday, was wrong. “We don’t want to be disqualified from Euro 2016 because of this situation. We understand things can happen. These pyrotechnics are not good things to use. Our supporters have to focus.”

The only positive comment for England came when Slutsky suggested they were favourites for the group which sees Russia play Slovakia tomorrow night before England and Wales meet in Lens, half an hour’s drive from here, on Thursday.

“The English team is best in our group and against the others we must just perform,” he said. “I would say that we have worked a lot with our physical stuff. During the game we have seen that I have to participate and win a lot of balls. That’s why we have these impressive statistics. We have to struggle and fight. We have struggle and fight and then play and create.”

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