20.05.2008 Russia, Moscow. MU fans outnumbered those Chelsea ones. The latter were restrained, just like true aristocrats.
Photo: Sergey Kiselev
Red and Blue Alert in Moscow
// MU and Chelsea fans arrived in Russia’s capital
Yesterday first fans of Chelsea and Manchester United arrived in Moscow for the League of Champions final. Yesterday they peacefully walked in the Luzhniki area and in Red Square, and queued around the European Champions Cup. But the situation may change today: No one knows how many Englishmen will come to Moscow and how many of them have tickets for the match. You can still buy tickets with secondhand dealers, but you can never tell whether their tickets are genuine.
Yesterday you could see the first groups of English fans in the center of Moscow and in the Luzhniki stadium area, where today Chelsea and MU will meet for the League of Champions final. The fans are mostly well-to-do people of 30 years old, they bought a short tour to Moscow costing ˆ2.000 including hotel reservation and a ticket to the match. Most of them will stay at the Kosmos, Izmaylovo and Orlenok hotels. Yesterday the fans would hardly violate public order – they just walked peacefully along Moscow’s streets. Kommersant correspondent even saw several Chelsea and MU fans having a small talk in cafes and in the streets.
In Red Square even a special zone was set up for the fans and tourists arriving in Moscow. There you could see the gilded European Champions Cup, and you could also buy badges, scarves and other items with symbols of today’s match. The major part of the zone was taken up by an artificial grass field, where children in UEFA T-shirts played football. Some 500 people queued at the zone to have a look at the Cup. Many of them wore the red T-shirts of MU, and those blue ones of Chelsea. The fans of both teams appeared not to see each other, and photographed the sights mainly. In the evening the zone was dismantled.
The organizers of the match hope that it’ll be even more difficult for the fans to meet at the Luzhniki stadium. Yesterday they accomplished the erection of tent-towns for the fans. For the MU fans, the territory near the Smaller Sports Arena is meant, and the Chelsea fans will enjoy the view of the Vorobyovy Hills from their tents. There are special bridges linking the tent-towns with the stadium, which is supposed to help prevent the fans from meeting with one another. Today everything will be placed in the areas to allow the Englishmen to enjoy the match: booths where beer will be sold, and toilets. Yesterday the stadium was closed for those who had no special permits. Equipment for TV broadcasting was mounted there, and the sound was tested. You could see few police officers round the stadium, even the clothes market near the Sportivnaya tube station worked as usual. Three MU fans, who came from Japan yesterday, photographed one another at the tents where Turkish and Chinese swimsuits were sold.
But the idyll in Moscow’s streets may end today. The thing is, no one knows for sure how many fans will arrive for the match. Officially, UEFA gave 21,000 tickets to the two clubs, and another 17,000 – to their fan-clubs throughout the world. Nevertheless, yesterday Mikhail Ignatiev, Director of Russia’s National Tourist Office, stated that the number of those coming to Moscow won’t exceed 25,000 fans of the two teams. “Many of them didn’t want to pay the high price for the flight, hotel and service – the tours cost as much as ˆ2.000–2.500,” Mr Ignatiev explained. “Some of the British companies confessed that they were not able to sell commercial tours, and companies organizing flights for fans are virtually in a panic.” Irina Tyurina, Press-Secretary with Russia’s Tourist Business Alliance, has another prognosis. She told Kommersant that 10,000 more fans may arrive in Moscow. “Many of them will come without tickets, reckoning to purchase them with secondhand dealers, but there is no guarantee that these tickets are genuine,” Ms Tyurina stated. It need be said that if the Englishmen without tickets don’t manage to get to the stadium, they will have no chance to see the match at all. According to Interfax, Russian soccer fans have booked places in pubs with large screens in Moscow and even in the suburbs.
It’s difficult to count those arriving because many of them fly to Moscow via third-party lands. Among them, there are those who have tickets (to cross the Russian border, you only need to have a passport and a migration card) as well as those who have Russian visas only. “According to the information we had on Monday evening, MU fans bought 19,000 tickets, and Chelsea fans – 13,000. But this data shouldn’t be considered final,” Andrey Malosolov, Press-Secretary of Russia’s Football Alliance told Kommersant. “You shouldn’t also think that another cluster of tickets will be sold – it will threaten with fans of the two teams getting to the same stadium sectors, which UEFA prohibits.” Nonetheless, an official with the Russian Football Alliance didn’t rule out the possibility of fake tickets being sold to fans. “With our people’s enterprise, you can’t rule it out. I hope that Englishmen are careful, and they won’t buy the dubious sheets of paper,” he said. It need be added that you can still purchase the tickets on the Internet via sites of reselers. Compared with the previous week, they got cheaper, dropping from 50,000 roubles to 37,000 roubles.
Yesterday Russia’s Interior Ministry had to acknowledge that the problem with the tickets really exists. “The only thing that worries us is that you can still but tickets in the city though their selling is not allowed,” stated Vyacheslav Kozlov, Deputy Head of Moscow’s Interior Department during a meeting with Minister Rashid Nurgaliev. The latter replied that the Moscow militia must do its best to provide security at the stadium as well as in the city. “The effectiveness of this work will determine the country’s reputation in the international arena,” the Minister stressed. The minister drew attention of his subordinates to the fact that the final at the Luzhniki stadium is a European-level fest. Mr Kozlov promised that all the 4,500 police officers will be in full dress.
It is drivers that will suffer most from the security measures for the fans: The traffic in Moscow will be limited to a great extent today. Moscow’s road police will provide for an unrestricted thoroughfare of the two teams playing in the final (Chelsea has stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Tverskaya Street, and MU – at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on the Krasnopresnenskaya Embankment). Special strips on the MKAD (Moscow Automobile Ring Road), Mozhayskoe Highway, Kutuzovsky and Leningradsky Avenue will be allocated for the 970 buses with fans onboard, which can cause traffic jams. It will be forbidden to drive the Khamovnichesky Bank, Novodevichya, Savvinskaya, Rostovskaya and Frunzenskaya Embankments, as well as Luzhnetsky and Novodevichy Passages.
Russian football fans assured Russia’s Sports, Tourism and Youth Policy Minister, Vitaly Mutko, that no clashes with the English fans were planned. But no one can give you a 100% guarantee. “The English are far from being angels when they are drunk,” reminded Mr Malosolov; and Alexander Shprygin, President of the All-Russian Fan Union, told Kommersant that clashes between the Englishmen and “our guys” are possible in center of Moscow after the final, though he promised that it won’t tell on the security of passers-by.
In the evening you could see much more English fans in Moscow’s streets that in the morning or at midday. The MU fans outnumbered those Chelsea ones – they walked in big groups in the city. More than half a hundred of MU fans managed to occupy a small café at the Meyerhold theatre in Tverskaya Street. They sang the anthem of their club and clapped their hands. Another hundred of the MU fans were photographed in front of the GUM (State Universal Store) in Red Square. The Chelsea fans walked along the city streets in groups of 3 or 4 people and appeared calm and quiet.
All the Article in Russian as of May 21, 2008