‘Russia’s Hooligan Army’ (2017) is painfully real

Russia's Hooligan Army (2017)

Thinking of going to WC 2018? Watch Russia’s Hooligan Army. It may change your mind, especially if you are British and male. This BBC TV documentary starts with news footage of the Russian hooligan attacks at Euro 2016. Then, it turns the spigot on full blast in sensationalist interviews with Russian supporters group leaders, who crow over their victories and ready their members for the next round on the home soil of WC 2018.

Producer-Director Alex Stockley von Statzer has mind-boggling access to the supporters groups. They speak openly and allow him to film their training and recruitment methods, as well as their gang rumbles in the forests.

Hooligans see themselves as role models for the new Russian male: unstoppable men who fight until they or their opponents are unconscious. They have far surpassed the English hooligans on whom they modeled themselves, and who they now disrespect as simple drunkards. At Euro 2016, Russian supporters defeated all others despite being outnumbered 10 or 100 to one.

Clearly, they train so that they will continue to be feared. It makes me wonder if that is why they allow themselves to be filmed: to create propaganda to dishearten British supporters.

There are many articles that describe the film’s content in great detail, but here are a few good ones:

Both Alex Stockley von Statzer and Producer Diana Aroutiounova have track records in “getting difficult access to unseen worlds and stories” and “tackling sensitive topics within hostile environments”. Their efforts have made an engrossing and alarming film.

FIFA corruption taints the World Cups

The hooligan situation is another black mark against FIFA’s decision to hold the World Cup in Russia. We already know that racism and homophobia prevail. Putin assassinates dissenters and invades neighboring countries for their assets. He hacks American email and sabotaged our election. The film points out that Putin and his top sports officials appear to support the hooligans.

If FIFA really wanted to change its corrupt ways, FIFA would move both the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. When we as fans continue to support and accept FIFA’s corrupt decisions, our tacit approval shows our own lack of character and ethics. Going to WC 2018 would be like attending Hitler’s Olympics. This film highlights a few hundred bad guys in Russia, but the worst bad guy is no different, and he runs the country.

Apr-2017 Update: The New York Times published an article that corroborates this BBC story. It also cites the Russian term for this new breed of paramilitary hooliganism: Okolofutbola (Околофутбола), or “around football.” A Russian feature film with this title was released in 2013.

Mar-5-2020 Update: So it turned out that WC 2018 in Russia was perhaps the most entertaining World Cup ever, as watched on TV. In a way, I was glad that USA did not qualify; I didn’t have to make a moral decision. The tournament was probably helped by the fact that few England and European fans attended; the hooligans were kept in check. I do believe though, that the Russian and Croatian teams must have been on PEDs, because they accomplished an abnormal amount of running.

8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8