Russian soccer mourns fire dead with silent halves
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian soccer teams played in near silence on Saturday as the country mourned 64 people killed in a shopping mall fire.
Fan groups across the country agreed not to sing for the first halves of their league games as a mark of respect after Sunday’s fire in the Siberian city of Kemerovo shook the nation.
It wasn’t quite 45 minutes of silence - there were often the cheers and whistles of a regular game, albeit a little subdued. Occasional attempts to start chants were hushed by other fans.
At Spartak Moscow, whose usually boisterous fans first proposed the gesture, the quiet half ended with cheers as the home team went 1-0 up in stoppage time.
Around the stadium, both teams’ fans in the crowd of 28,500 displayed homemade posters and banners mourning the dead.
“Parents shouldn’t have to bury their children,” one read, referencing how the fire killed dozens of children who had gone to the mall on the first weekend of Russia’s school recess.
“How could it be any other way?” longtime Spartak fan Alexander Ivanov said of the hushed half. “With the size of the tragedy, it needs to be this way.”
Russian soccer stadiums are dominated by highly organized ultra groups in the style of Italy or Germany, singing songs in an order laid out by the groups’ leaders.
The second half began with Spartak’s ultras in full voice, roaring their team on to a 2-1 win against FC Tosno which put the defending Russian champion two points off the top spot in the league.