Russia’s “Little Green Fan” Problem: football hooligans, the new nationalism, and the Western narrative

Dr. Mark Galeotti tackles the recent clashes between Russian and British football fans in France, and the nasty Western narrative that sees the hooligans as agents of Putin’s “hybrid warfare”. It’s about time a scholar tackled this! It’s a worthwhile read, even if one may object to a few parts.

In Moscow's Shadows

The open enthusiasm of some Russian politicians about the thuggish behaviour of their football fans in France speaks volumes about the boorish nationalism and crude us-versus-the-world mentality that has been liberated by Putin in recent years. Compared with the ongoing war in the Donbas or the crackdown on independent media and NGOs, it may seem trivial to focus on Liberal Democrat parliamentarian Igor Lebedev’s tweeted comment that he didn’t “see anything wrong with the fans fighting. Quite the opposite, well done lads, keep it up!” or indeed Putin’s disingenuous question as to “how 200 Russian fans could beat several thousand of the British.”

But of course this is all part of a common pattern of mulish and wilful refusal to accept any fault or responsibility, a determination instead to blame everything on everyone else. And the result is a vicious circle that sees the rest of the world, although especially the…

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  1. If Russian football fans are agents of Kremlin then our national football team are agents of the State Dept and CIA [nods]


    • To be clear, I don’t agree with everything Galeotti says and I think the article would be better off without a few unsupported assertions.
      1) He cites the “open enthusiasm” of “some” Russian politicians for the football fan fights in France but only cites one – LDPR’s Igor Lebedev. And LDPR isn’t exactly a popular party, if I remember correctly.
      2) Mentions that “boorish nationalism and crude us-versus-the-world mentality” has been unleashed by Putin. Are you sure about that? Are you sure this sentiment is a uniquely Putinist phenomenon?
      3) Russia-as-spoiled-child theory.
      4) I disagree with Galeotti’s final point that we should stop spreading the “football hooligan=little green man” narrative mainly “because it empowers Putin”. I know he is capable of making a stronger argument than this, so why does he resort to fear-mongering? A far better argument would be that spreading the aforementioned unverified narrative is unnecessary hype that distracts us from dealing with the actual areas of conflict in West-Russian relations and robs Western journalism of the “superior credibility” it claims to have. And if Galeotti is going to keep the argument he has, he should at least provide some evidence of how Putin feeds off such “hybrid war” narratives.
      5) Putin=Russia (ex. “his military might”)


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