On Friday, the Montenegro vs. Russia Euro qualifier match was cut short after two incidents involving home fans throwing objects onto the pitch. The first of the two incidents occurred only 25 seconds after the match began, and delayed the game for over half an hour as a fan hit Russian goalie Igor Akinfeev in the head with a flare. The goalie had to be rushed to the hospital and treated for burns inflicted by the flare, and was said to be “a lucky man not to have suffered worse.” The game was let on, and after halftime was called to an end in the 67th minute after another player was hit by a cigarette lighter that was thrown from the crowd.
In reaction to the chaos that took place, UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings against the soccer federation of Montenegro early Monday morning. However, they have to wait for more concrete details and thus cannot come to any conclusions before this upcoming weekend. On the Russian side, the soccer federation has lodged a complaint that may result in its team being awarded a 3-0 win and three points in Group G. The most notable reaction came from the Montenegrins, however. To start, Coach Branko Brnovic voiced his opinions, stating “my players are depressed…we will be playing without fans for who knows how long after this.” The administration continued to comment about the incidents that took place, with general secretary Momir Djurdjevac even stating that, “we are left with the impression of barbarians. It seems we don’t deserve a nation, a team or berth in a major tournament.”
Looking back on all this, I think that these events that occurred on Friday portray a more significant problem that the “sport” of soccer currently faces. Although it is arguably the most nationally-tied sport in the world, where fans seem to be most proud of their nations to play and win, is there a point where FIFA and other leagues should consider drawing a line? Soccer fans and crowds have become notoriously known for incidents like those of Friday’s for as long as large crowds have been allowed at games. It is no longer a surprise when such outbreaks occur, but why is that? Why don’t other sporting events ignite such barbaric actions from their fans, or if they do why do they occur in such less frequency? To me, it seems like a player being physically injured from such actions should raise alarms to administrators about potentially cracking down on all fans. I have never been to a professional soccer match, but it seems like nearly anything can be brought in by fans. At other sporting events, fans are patted down for anything more than a sandwich before entering the stadiums. After Friday’s tragedies, is it fair to say that soccer commissioners should look into changing protocol? Should fans be checked more intensely, or does this fervent nature contribute so much to the sport that nothing should be done?
All of these questions will have to be answered in due time. We cannot predict what administrators will decide after the events that occurred on Friday, but there is one thing that we can all be sure of: Montenegrin soccer will now be looked at in a different light, one that most definitely is associated with that of savagery, negativity, and ferocity.