Russia goalie hit by flare, match ended, but Ukraine media focuses on Novorossiya flags in crowd
A Euro 2016 qualifying match between Montenegro and Russia was stopped after multiple disruptions to the game as projectiles were thrown from the stands at Russian players. Tensions flared in Montenegro as Russia national team goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was hit on the back of the head by a lit flare in the first minute of the match. Akinfeev was reportedly knocked unconscious briefly and stretchered off, causing the Group G game to be delayed for 33 minutes.
The match resumed but was then stopped in the 66th minute after more Russian players were hit with objects thrown from the stands. One Russian player showed the official the object that hit him.
According to ESPN, a penalty awarded to Russia saved by Montenegro caused more “missiles to be thrown onto the pitch from the stands” and the official stopped the match for the second time. Fights broke out between players and staff from both teams and Russian players eventually walked off to the locker room as the field became more unsafe. Goalkeeper Akinfeev reported to Russian media that he is fine after the attack.
Though the game did not involve a team from Ukraine, news site UA Today took the opportunity to report that some Russian fans brought flags of the separtist regions known as Novorossiya involved in the Ukraine proxy war. The Ukrainian news report basically ignores the events of the match, not mentioning the flare actually hit a player, and then seemingly links the rebel flags to the reason the match was stopped. The video report on the article ironically calls the Russian fans ‘hooligans’ for displaying the flags but makes no mention of Montenegro fans who caused the match to be suspended. The Montenegro Footall Association chief went as far as to call the behavior of their own fans as that of ‘barbarians’ who didn’t deserve to be in a major tournament.
UA Today apparently missed these things and the most important part of the match in their opinion was a few flags showing rebel support.
Even the Kremlin has refused to fully recognize the self-styled breakaway republics in Ukraine.
Russian fans violated a UEFA ban on displaying political slogans on Friday in Montenegro – by showing the flag of Novorossiya, a self-styled area in Ukraine not even recognized by the Kremlin. The photo was published online by newspaper SovSport.
The game was eventually abandoned after flares were launched and a mass brawl ensued. Prior to the match, UEFA issued an order banning fans in the stands to show anything linked to politics.
It’s not the first such incident. Last October, Russian supporters held banners proclaiming that ‘Kosovo is Serbia’, next to large images of militant leaders during a game against Moldova in October 2014.
Militants in Donetsk and Luhansk began using the term ‘Novorossiya’, translated as New Russia, in April last year. Russian President Vladimir Putin labeled it a tsarist-era term for land that now comprises of an area of southeastern Ukraine.