1. ITV Report

German football boss confident Russia wants to have ‘safe World Cup’

A general view of the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow (Aaron Chown/PA) Photo: PA Wire/PA Images

The head of the German football association has said he hopes the huge Russian security operation will not “overload” fans’ experience of the World Cup.

The DFB’s president Reinhard Grindel, who is in Moscow for the Fifa Congress meeting where the 2026 World Cup host will be chosen, said he was aware of the threat from issue including hooliganism and terrorism.

There is a large police presence in parts of Moscow, with airport-style scanners and searches in operation around the Luzhniki Stadium ahead of kick off.

He said the German secret service had identified threats from terrorist groups who want to attack football’s greatest showpiece event.

Russia World Cup 2018 Credit: Russia World Cup 2018

And he admitted no guarantees could be given that fans would be safe from the threat from a “lonesome” terrorist.

But he said he felt Russia was determined to host a safe tournament.

He told the Press Association: “It is clear that in a country like Russia you need security and it’s in our interest, in the interests of our team, of our fans to have security.

“On the other hand it should not be so much that it overloads everything so we must find a wise, middle way as so much security as needed but not so much security that the mood is overloaded by this security issue.

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“To be honest, it is clear they want to have a safe World Cup.”

He added he did not believe there would be a repeat of the violence that marred the European Championships in France two years ago.

“The security here knows the names and backgrounds of some leaders of the hooligan movement and there was personal contact from the security administration with them and they have the clear statement that they would be suddenly imprisoned if they do anything so I think we will not see pictures like in Marseille,” he said.

“German fans feel safe, if the focus is on the hooligan problem.

“I cannot give a guarantee here that we have no problems with for example terrorist acts.

Russia World Cup 2018 Credit: Russia World Cup 2018

“I think the security administration is so good that groups who were active will be seen and they will prevent a big terror act but you can never, ever, say it is impossible for a lonesome terrorist to make something.

“We know from our secret service there a lot of videos from different terrorist groups which say they want to do something during the World Cup and they request their followers to do actions.”

Mr Grindel, who was a German federal politician for 14 years before being elected as head of the DFB, also said he did not think a boycott of the World Cup over political disputes was “wise”.

Like many other football dignitaries, he will be attending the opening ceremony of the tournament at Luzhniki Stadium on Thursday but officials from the English FA and British Government and Royal Family are not expected to be present following the row over the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in Salisbury in March.

But the thousands of football fans who are expected to travel for the tournament, including up to 10,000 England supporters, could make a huge difference to relations between the West and Russia, Mr Grindel said.

“If you play in Russia, this is not similar to supporting everything Mr (Vladimir) Putin is politically doing but the point is to build bridges between the civil societies, it can also have the consequence of a better understanding between our two countries,” he said.