Zenit St. Petersburg fans have a reputation for bad behavior, but today’s incident at the Petrovsky Stadium crossed the line from clumsy allegiance to criminal activity, likely costing their team a result while putting an opposing player’s physical health at risk.
That’s what happened in the first half today in St. Petersburg. While Zenit was building to attack visiting Dinamo Moscow’s goal, goalkeeper Anton Shunin was hit with a flare thrown from the standings, the 25-year-old jumping with surprise before falling to the ground in pain.
Shunin was taken to a local hospital, where he is being treated for problems with his vision and hearing.
With only 39 minutes played, the match was abandoned, Dinamo holding a 1-0 lead. In all likelihood, they’ll get their three points, hardly the most prescient issue in light of Saturday’s events.
As ITV’s post on the incident points out, this is just the most recent in a growing list of embarrassing incidents for Zenit’s fans. Last week, supporters set fire for FK Volga’s stadium. Last season, racial taunts toward Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos garnered more negative attention for the club.
The near-riots Zenit fans started after their club won the Russian league title two years ago led Guardian contributor Jonathan Wilson to describe them as “the most militant” supporters “[i]n a country where football violence is on the rise.”
Russian site RT.com put it best when they called today’s incident a “nadir,” but we can only hope. Assaulting an opposing player (during a match, even) is a rare and frightening low, but with a fanbase that seems incapable of being anything but the most idiotic idiot, who knows what’s next.