BARCELONA (Reuters) – FIFA said on Friday it had every confidence in its security measures at the World Cup in Russia after hooliganism in the host nation came under fresh scrutiny following violent incidents involving Spartak Moscow supporters on Thursday in which a policeman died of a heart attack.
The officer died in hospital in the northern Spanish city of Bilbao. He had been taken there when the regional police force was trying to stop street battles between supporters of Spartak and Athletic before their Europa League last 32, second leg at the San Mames stadium.
Nine people were arrested following the clashes. Spanish newspaper El Mundo said two Russian ultras were taken to hospital with injuries, one with stab wounds.
The World Cup begins on June 14 in Russia and local authorities are putting strict security procedures in place to control hooligans, including Russian fans who caused trouble at the 2016 European Championship in France and other soccer events.
“As far as the World Cup 2018’s security is concerned, we fully trust the security mechanisms and complex security concept worked out by the Russian authorities and the local organizing committee,” FIFA said in a translated statement cited by Russian newspaper Sport Express.
“As the FIFA Confederation Cup, which was staged in Russia last year, showed, the already high security standards in Russia were altered in a such way that they comply with the nature of such large-scale sports events.”
Spartak won the match 2-1 but were knocked out of Europe’s second-tier club competition 4-3 on aggregate after losing the first leg 3-1 in Moscow.
Russian supporters will return to Spain next month, however, after Lokomotiv Moscow were paired with Atletico Madrid in Friday’s last-16 draw. They visit the Spanish capital in the first leg on March 8.
Two other Russian sides remain in the tournament: CSKA Moscow, who were paired with French side Olympique Lyonnais and Zenit St Petersburg, who face German team RB Leipzig.
Josu Zubiaga, vice-chairman of security for the Basque government told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser that the policeman, named as Inocencio Alonso, 51, had not died as a result of violent contact.
Roberto Seijo, general secretary for trade union ErNE of the Basque police force, however, described the death as a direct result of the violence.
“The death of our colleague did not take place while sitting in an armchair but as the consequence of these incidents,” he said, quoted in El Mundo.
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge