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16 May, 2022 13:30

Hardcore fans urge Russian Cup final boycott over ID measures

A group of Spartak Moscow supporters have pledged to continue shunning matches
Hardcore fans urge Russian Cup final boycott over ID measures

Spartak Moscow fans have called on fellow supporters to boycott the Russian Cup final later this month in a continued protest against government plans to introduce a FAN ID system.

Spartak played out a draw with Russian Premier League champions Zenit St. Petersburg Moscow on Sunday, with an entire section of the Otkritie Bank Arena empty as the club’s ‘Ultras’ opted to stay away in opposition to the measures.

Ahead of the Russian Cup final against cross-city rivals Dynamo Moscow at Luzhniki Stadium on May 29, hardcore Spartak supporters said they would not relent in their protest despite the magnitude of the game.

“Friends, Spartak reached the final of the Russian Cup for the first time since 2006. And this is really a joyous event! I hope we will celebrate the victory of our team on May 29 in the oldest derby in Moscow,” read a message from key Ultras figure Mikhail Divinsky on Russian social media network VKontakte.

“But now I want to touch on an equally important topic – the boycott of the main matches in connection with the imminent introduction of Fan ID. I read comments in which many call to abandon our decision and go to the Luzhniki Stadium.

“Guys, you call to abandon your principles, betray your ideals and break your word! Spartak fans are responsible for the words and will comply with the boycott, regardless of what match the team will have next,” added Divinsky

“Fans are not sold for profit, which in this case will be the cup final. I am sure that the players will cope without active support and will please us with the long-awaited trophy.

“This final is a great chance to make sure that the voices of thousands of people are heard. Fan ID should not be in stadiums in Russia. 

“This law violates our freedoms! If we refuse to defend our interests today, we risk being outside the stadium tomorrow and leaving our club without support for many years to come.

“And once again: on May 29, in the main match of the season, there will be no active fans in Luzhniki. Remember this!” 

Groups of Spartak fans and elsewhere at the likes of Zenit vowed to boycott matches after the Russian State Duma passed the FAN ID law which will introduce a new passport system for large-scale domestic sporting events.

As well as obtaining tickets, football fans will be required to formulate a separate FAN ID document to enter matches.

The scheme is not entirely alien to Russia and was first used when the country hosted the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.

It was successfully utilized again at the Russia 2018 World Cup, as well as in St. Petersburg during Euro 2020, with particular benefits such as visa-free entry for foreigners. 

Supporters of the step say it will improve security measures and allow the authorities to weed out or punish undesirable elements among crowds.

Those against the measures claim they will mean additional hassle for Russian fans hoping to attend matches and will entail more data being handed over to the authorities.

Fans actively protested against the step in December of last year and continued when the Russian Premier League resumed after its winter break in February.

The law has already been signed by President Putin and is set to come into force from June 1.

A large section of Spartak’s most vociferous support was conspicuous by its absence from Sunday’s home game against Zenit – usually among the most anticipated clashes of the season.

The area behind one of the goals usually occupied by the Spartak Ultras at Otkritie Bank Arena was entirely uninhabited, leading to a subdued atmosphere in which traveling Zenit fans were often the most audible.

Already crowned Russian champions for a fourth season in a row, Zenit snatched a draw thanks to an injury-time penalty equalizer by Andrei Mostovoy, canceling out a 49th-minute header from Spartak forward Aleksandr Sobolev.  

Spartak have endured another disappointing season in domestic terms, languishing down in 10th in the table and with the Russian Cup final offering their only hope of silverware.

The Moscow club had surprised many in Europe by topping a Europa League group containing Leicester City, Napoli and Legia Warsaw, but were removed from their last-16 tie with RB Leipzig after UEFA imposed a ban on all Russian teams because of the conflict in Ukraine.