FAI want probe into attacks on Irish supporters

Bill George

FAI general secretary, Brendan Menton, said he had officially lodged a complaint with the UEFA observer prior to the match after receiving reports of attacks on Irish supporters on Moscow streets on Friday.

He said he had yet to receive details of a major assault on the Irish that left at least one Irish supporter seriously ill in hospital with head wounds shortly before Saturday’s match.

Said Mr Menton: “I also made a report to the Irish Ambassador in Moscow after Friday nights’ incidents and he was actively involved in bringing them to the attention of the Moscow authorities. We formally reported our dissatisfaction to the UEFA observer at the technical meeting prior to the game on Saturday.

“It is worrying to learn that other Irish supporters were hurt shortly before kick-off in an incident on the Moscow streets and when I get more details I will forward them to the UEFA delegate tomorrow (Monday).

“This is disturbing to us because everyone knows how well behaved the Irish supporters always are and I know the UEFA delegate is taking the issue very seriously. It is the first time our supporters have been treated like this.

“The reports we received were that the Friday incidents happened in the view of some Moscow police who didn’t seem to take any action. The Irish Embassy made sure those hurt were taken to a western clinic and received proper treatment.

“Unfortunately I do not know what UEFA can do because the incidents occurred away from the football stadium and nobody knows who the perpetrators were. It is very difficult to know what follow-up action can take place.

“The welfare of our supporters is very important to us and we will pursue this as far as we can. As you saw, the supporters at the match behaved impeccably as usual in difficult circumstances on the pitch and off.”

The kick-off of the match was delayed for almost ten minutes after the FAI had brought the attention of the UEFA delegate to the difficulty the Irish supporters had in gaining access to the stadium. The FAI insisted the match be delayed despite pressure from TV companies and all the Irish - perhaps as many as 4,000 - were in place for kick-off.

The authorities had difficulty in organising the fans because the Lokomotiv Stadium is new and this was the first major match to be staged there. Although the attendance was well below the 35,000 capacity - at an estimated 22,000 - teething problems were exaggerated by the authorities determination to keep the opposing fans separated.

“In fairness the authorities were determined to ensure the safety of the Irish fans and went to great pains to keep them apart” said Mr. Menton. “The operation was much too slow, however, and we insisted that the UEFA observer was kept fully up to date with everything that happened.”

It was clear the Moscow football authorities were much more concerned about protecting the welfare of the Irish at the stadium than were the civic authorities.

There were many reports of Irish supporters being stopped in the streets late at night by personnel in police or army uniforms demanding the production of passports initially and then demanding money from them.

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