As tensions between England and Russia run high, Arsenal head to Moscow for the second leg of their quarterfinal meeting with CSKA Moscow. The Gunners are in good shape after a 4-1 score line last week in London.
Many fans have decided not to travel out of fear and increasing anxiety between England and Russia. However, those that do make the trip will receive a “welcome” gift from the Russian Football Federation.
It was reported today, in a paper to which we won’t link but whose name rhymes with The Bun, that 500 fur hats will be handed out to visiting Gooners. Each hat will include the inscription “Russian Warm Welcome”. Apparently, this is part of the country’s “Gentlefan” campaign. If you’re snickering at the thought of gentle fans in Russia, you are not alone. It’s especially comical after the UK’s Express newspaper ran a story earlier this week with the headline, “World Cup 2018 BLOODBATH: Russian hooligans warn England fans ‘Prepare to DIE’”.
This is not the first time that the Russian federation has welcomed fans of teams from the English Premier League. Manchester United fans were given raincoats last September when the Red Devils played CSKA. T-shirts were the gifts distributed to Liverpool fans for their clubs’ meeting with Spartak Moscow.
It’s going to take more than fur hats to ease political tensions around the world, but from a footballing point of view, it’s a nice gesture. Let’s just hope that the mood in the stadium remains “gentle” when Arsenal knock CSKA out of the Europa League tournament.