Presuming that female fans may smuggle pyrotechnics for male friends, police in Kazan demanded that all women attending game of their beloved Spartak need to take off their clothes. All clothes.
Friday was the opening day of Russia’s Premier Liga. Two powerhouses met in the first game in Kazan, where local Rubin took on Spartak Moskva. Contrary to what one would expect a year after official opening of Kazan Arena, the game was played at the old Centralnyj Stadion. The Arena won’t be ready until August 17.
But that fact won’t be remembered long. Neither may the score, humiliating loss 0:4 of the host side. What made headlines across Russia was the treatment of Spartak fans. Local police forces were braced for a real invasion, because indeed several thousand people from Moscow made the 700km (440miles) trip and descended on Kazan. After appeals they scrapped marching through the city and met in front of the stadium. Spartak as a club also assured the group would be well-behaved.
But as the fans were arriving at Centralnyj Stadion, they faced unprecedented safety measures, aimed mostly at preventing any pyrotechnics from getting inside. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. But what actually happened behind the turnstiles seems hard to believe. Even in Russia the news had to be confirmed by numerous witnesses to make headlines, which took roughly two days after the game.
While male fans of Spartak faced measures one might expect (complete check of any belongings, taking off shoes, etc.), women were treated to a more severe kind of inspection. They were taken away one by one and strip-searched by male officers, even demanded to remove all of their underwear. Should one object, she didn’t get inside after having travelled the distance of a medium-sized country to get to the game.
Ekaterina Stepanova became the face of outrage as she didn’t only object. She also collected data from policemen conducting the searches, sent information to media outlets and public authorities, including ministries. She eventually got inside the stadium, having conducted a half-hour long phone intervention with the officers’ higher-ups.
Recent Miss Spartak Evgenia Trusova also objected and was left outside the stadium. She feels this was an awful malpractice by safety officials. “I’m ready to defend girls in all instances. You can’t just let it go and follow anything the organisers ask of you. It’s impossible to call it anything other than humiliation. I’m sure a number of girls won’t go to games again, especially to away fixtures, said Trusova, interviewed by R-Sport.
The Premier Liga authorities assure they never ordered any such measures. In fact, safety director Alexander Meytin called the inspections “excessively rigid” and ungrounded. He claims he found out ahead of the game and immediately demanded to stop what was going on. Currently it’s unclear who ever gave an order to strip-search girls.
Ironically, the Interior Ministry of Tatarstan doesn’t see a problem. “The inspections ahead of Rubin-Kazan game were legally justified. Before the game we issued an appeal to fans to come earlier because of detailed searches. Maybe someone got to the stadium late and had trouble because of that. And if employees noticed anyone suspicious, they were allowed to search that person more thoroughly, says Linara Davletchina of the ministry’s press office.
The action puts Kazan police into shame and proved ineffective anyway. Spartak fans indeed managed to get pyrotechnics inside, while no report of any confiscated materials was issued…