2018 FIFA World Cup

2018 FIFA WC: England fans warned not to wave flags in Russia, but why?

[caption id="attachment_65924" align="aligncenter" width="620"]These pictures might not be seen during the FIFA World Cup in Russia. | Image: Twitter These pictures might not be seen during the FIFA World Cup in Russia. | Image: Twitter[/caption]

XtraTime Web Desk: The traveling football fans from England have been given a strong warning and mandated not to fly flags of St George – or risk making themselves a target for Russian football hooligans during the FIFA World Cup.

Mark Roberts, the national lead for football policing, fears tense relations between London and Moscow in the wake of the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, plus the recent air strikes on Syria, mean overt displays of patriotism are likely to trigger a violent response.

Mr Roberts, the deputy chief constable of South Yorkshire police, said there was a “very strong nationalistic, patriotic sense running throughout society which is firmly, at least ostensibly, behind President [Vladimir Putin]."

Referring to the fact that England fans have historically sung about the Second World War during encounters with Germany, he warned that similar behaviour in Russia would be fraught with risk.

He explained: “They use that horrible word ‘banter’ and pretend it’s just a laugh. Well, it won’t be perceived in that way.”

Speaking on the Eve of St George’s Day, he stressed that even the simple act of unfurling flags in public was inadvisable, adding: “The fact of the matter is you are bringing increased attention and risk on yourself.”

To make matters worse, most of the British embassy staff tasked with World Cup preparations were expelled last month as Moscow responded to similar expulsions of Russian diplomats from London in the wake of the Skripal affair, blame for which has widely been attributed to President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

These diplomats would usually be on hand to help British citizens in Russia if they are arrested, fall ill, or lose their passports.

Violent clashes threatened to mar the European Championships two years ago, with shocking footage emerging on YouTube of Russian fans wearing GoPro camera headsets filming attacks on English fans.

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