Fans of Liverpool Football Club have applauded the spirited welcome received in Moscow, saying they experienced nothing but warmth and hospitality from their Russian counterparts, contrary to UK media reports which constantly warned of “bloodthirsty” football hooligans.
Ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League game against Spartak Moscow at the Otkrytie Arena, Liverpool supporters were given blankets and souvenir T-shirts by Russian fans.
The gifts were handed out as part of the “Gentlefan – a Russian warm welcome,” campaign which kicked off in the city of Rostov last March, when Manchester United took on the local side in the Europa League playoffs.
Liverpool fans happily donned the red “Gentlefan” T-shits, posing for pictures and were seen wearing it during the match.
“The Russian people are very nice… very good… warm welcome for Liverpool supporters,” one of the British fans told Ruptly news agency.
Another Liverpool supporter said that his trip to Moscow was “very safe,” adding that “one Spartak fan took us all the way on the tube to make sure” that the visitors reach the stadium in time for the game.
An elderly lady in a wheelchair, who also came to shout for Liverpool in Moscow, said “everybody in the city and the hotel have been absolutely amazing.”
“We love coming to away games… I can’t tell you how lovely and special it is. I shook every hand that we came across and introduced my helper and myself to them. And they were so impressed and loved it,” she said of the Russians she met in the capital.
Another Liverpool fan said he and his mates were in the same pub with a group of Spartak Moscow supporters and together sang their respective club chants to each other.
Liverpool drew 1-1 with Spartak, with Manchester United facing another Moscow side, CSKA, later Wednesday.
More than 2,000 British football fans descended on the Russian capital for two Champions League matches this week.
Prior to Liverpool and Manchester United’s arrival to Russia, the British media were trumpeting scaremongering headlines.
The Sun speculated about “a brutal mass brawl” in the capital, while the Daily Star warned that “bloodthirsty Russian hooligans vowed to break the English.”
There was similar hysteria in the UK press before the FIFA Confederations Cup, which Russia hosted in summer as a dress-rehearsal for the 2018 World Cup.
However, the tournament went on without incidents and was praised for its organization and safety by both FIFA and thousands of visiting fans.