The New Hooligans of RussiaESPNNovember 20, 2018
Of course Vova has punched someone.
He says he has been punching people for years, says he loves punching people, says it is part of his identity.
To Vova, the idea of not punching people makes no sense, even though he knows that the Russian authorities are desperate for the upcoming World Cup to be safe and peaceful.
Vova is smart and earnest, with a fresh face, thin eyes and a soft nose.
“In a fight, everything is different,” he says.
“In a fight, everything is different,” says Vova, who fights with a group of hooligans known as IX Legion.
Russian officials are certainly cognizant of doing whatever is necessary to avoid a repeat of the horrendous scenes from Marseille during the upcoming tournament, but the government has also spent considerable time over the past two years doing whatever it can to shut down (or at least hide until after the World Cup) this ever-growing subculture of a hooliganism that involves young, devoted and violent fighters — like Vova — engaging in vicious, bare-knuckle brawling for fun.
“It won’t happen in Russia because our police services work a lot better” than in France, says Vlad, who is a friend of Vova’s and also a member of the Legion.
“So when you come home with a black eye or something like that,” I ask Vlad, “what do you tell your family about how it happened?”
Anton is now 20.
“No one really pays attention to it,” Vlad says, explaining that in Russia, boys are generally expected to fight. “So a boy got into a fight — no big deal. After all, I am a guy, not a girl.” He seizes upon this idea and waves his hands. “You can be like a girl,” he says, “or you can be a person who fights everywhere and stands up for himself. It’s your own choice.”