England supporters who experienced trouble in Moscow last October yesterday warned Chelsea and Manchester United fans not to parade their colours en route to the Luzhniki Stadium on May 21.
They are urged to travel in small groups, to arrive early and beware local traffic and particularly local Ultras.
Members of the official FA supporters` group, englandfans, were attacked in hotels and ambushed on the Metro while heading to the Euro 2008 qualifier on Oct 17. Following these incidents, more police will be stationed outside the Luzhniki for the Champions League final. Both Chelsea and United have liaised with Uefa and the Russian authorities to seek to minimise incidents.
Apart from black eyes and bruises, the only real injury reported on Oct 17 was the stabbing of an England fan, who was patched up by a chemist. The general impression among England supporters present was that Russian gangs just wanted to put on a show of force.
"It was bravado from them," said James Sly, 44, a Lincolnshire farmer and seasoned follower of England around the world. "Maybe it was a highlight to have a fight with the English. There was no thieving, and I only heard of one knife being used. They were probably disappointed England fans weren`t up for a fight."
Mark Templeman, 42, a golf professional and another long-standing member of englandfans, said: "English fans in the past have had their [bad] reputation, and it was like the Russians wanted to show they were top dogs. Russian fans are very tribal but they seemed to unite against England.
"Most of the fans who got ambushed were on the way to the ground. There was quite a lot of trouble. It was like football trouble 15 years ago in the UK, with people waiting for you. Moscow is a strange choice of venue by Uefa for the final. I would go back to Moscow but it has the potential to be a disaster."
Sly has been put off returning, although he voiced a frustration at not enjoying enough time to see more of a fascinating city because of flight delays, traffic congestion and fear of trouble. "We did manage to go on an official tour of Moscow on the day of the game but we only had three minutes in Red Square," he said. "The Russian guide then took us to this place off Red Square, where they got a room for us, very nice, for a traditional Russian meal.
"We were having some beers and food when two guys came in who looked pretty rough. They took one look at us, went outside, talking on their mobiles. Suddenly, we realised a gang was building up outside. The guide realised the place was going to be stormed and said: `Quick, leave your lunch, we go, we go`. So we chucked money on the table and got out. We didn`t get hit.
"The night before, we had got to our hotel, which was really nice, and the security people there said: `Don`t go out, there might be some gangs after you`. We stayed in one bar of the hotel and the Ultras stormed another bar where 20 of our group were. They lashed out and one woman got a black eye.
"On the day of the game, we got the official bus to the ground, which got lost, and we were late. There was the normal throat-slitting stuff from fans???outside the ground. I sat on the front seat with a guy with a bloody great gun. It was fine."
Other England fans endured more troubled journeys. "People who went on the Metro in ones and twos were fine," Sly added. "But we met some people at the ground who got a real good battering, 22 of them on the Metro. They thought they would be safe in a big number. The Ultras just stormed the carriage."
Templeman added: "We were on buses, which were safer." Templeman, Sly and other members of the official supporters group were initially refused entry to the Luzhniki, despite holding valid match tickets bought from the FA. "The tickets didn`t mean anything," Sly said. "So three of us, quite smartly dressed, went to the next gate without the [englandfans] gang and got in. There were no seats. We stood in front of the athletics track."
The fans stressed that the problem at the Luzhniki was not of the Russians` making. "No one ended up in their right blocks, but that might have been because we arrived late," Sly said. "England do get this abroad. Not just Russia. The stewarding in the stadium was fine, nothing like you get in Spain, where you get beaten with sticks. They were very laid-back.
"But my advice to United and Chelsea fans is don`t wear colours and do arrive early at the stadium - if the bars are open there, go and drink at the ground. It`s safer."
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