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‘We should prepare for World Cup, not react to British media swipes’ – Russian Deputy PM Mutko

‘We should prepare for World Cup, not react to British media swipes’ – Russian Deputy PM Mutko
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko says reacting to negative headlines in the British press aimed at Russian sport is futile, insisting that Russia will instead focus on preparing for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Mutko, who also serves as the head of the Russian Football Union (RFU) and Chairman of the 2018 World Cup Russia Local Organizing Committee, said Russia should concentrate on preparing for the tournament rather than the “systematic attacks” about Russian football supporters coming from British media outlets.

“Some people aim to discredit Russian sport, and this shows no signs of letting up soon,” Mutko said, according to TASS.

“It is carried out in a constant manner, steadily and without thought. There is no point in reacting to every jibe. Instead, we will prepare for the World Cup responsibly and to a high standard,” he said.

On Tuesday, UK tabloid the Mirror used the traditional Russian ‘Maslenitsa’ festival in a “shock investigation” into Russian football hooliganism, which featured a video depicting “Russian ‘football fans’ in bizarre refereed ‘fights.’”

However, the fighting in the video and photos accompanying the article actually show festival goers engaging in a centuries-old Russian tradition called “wall-to-wall” (‘stenka na stenku’), in which men spar dressed in traditional folk clothing.

The piece was the latest in a series of stories on the dangers Russian ultras allegedly pose to British football fans.

READ MORE: ‘BBC film on Russian football hooligans aims to sow fear’ of 2018 World Cup – Russian Embassy to UK

In response to other negative Western coverage related to Russian fans, Spartak Moscow supporters derided the BBC during the first half of their derby versus Lokomotiv Moscow on Saturday by unfurling a banner featuring a mock picture in which there were two masked fans – one holding a scarf bearing stripes in Spartak colors, and another, displayed on a TV screen with the BBC logo, brandishing a machete.

The words “Blah Blah Channel” were written at the bottom of the banner. The display was created in response to a BBC documentary that aired last month entitled Russia’s Hooligan Army, which depicts the country’s football supporters as thugs intent on violence.

Another banner emerged moments later carrying the message “#WelcomeToRussia2018 – Supporters of a big country” written in Russian, as an open invitation to fans to visit the World Cup.

After his team’s visit to Russia for the Europa League round of 16 first-leg away to FC Rostov, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said that everything had gone “wonderfully well.”

English fans that made the trip to Russia attend the match were presented with commemorative blankets by the Rostov supporters.

“My view is that everything went wonderfully well in Russia – apart [from] the pitch, but the club was so nice to us, the people around the hotel and the airport were so nice to us,” Mourinho told a Russian journalist in the press conference after the game.

READ MORE: 'Super-cool keepsake!' - FC Rostov reveal commemorative gift from Man Utd boss Mourinho

“I think the same with our supporters in the stadium and never felt anything but feel safe and feel super comfortable. I couldn't smell any kind of problem,” he said.