Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov has dismissed fears that racism and hooliganism in domestic football are serious enough to mar the World Cup later this year.
“I do not think that we have racism on a scale that needs to be fought,” Cherchesov told Brazil’s Globo TV.
“Hooligans? I have not seen any serious displays of it.”
The Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) anti-discrimination network reported 89 racist and far-right incidents at Russian games in the 2016/17 season.
The problem became especially severe during the last decade as richer clubs began purchasing Brazilian and African players.
FARE noted there has been a more serious anti-racism campaign by Russian authorities in the run-up to the June 14-July 15 competition.
But it said players and fans still risked abuse.
Hooliganism became a major issue for Russia when an organised group of its supporters pounced on English fans ahead of a Euro 2016 match in the French port of Marseille.
Violence between followers of Spartak Moscow and Athletic Bilbao on February 22 in Spain revived fears that Russia’s crackdown against local hooligans was insufficient.
Cherchesov said there were still “isolated cases (of hooligans), and like in other countrie, these people are punished”.
He added that Russia managed to stage a successful Confederations Cup last year and said he felt confident going into the World Cup.
Brazil and Russia will play a friendly in Moscow on March 23 as both sides zero in on their tournament squad selection.
“It will be cold,” Cherchesov promised, “but our hearts will warm you up”. – Agence France-Presse