Fri | Jan 18, 2019

Russian lawmaker wants to ban ‘mockery’ of soccer team at World Cup

Published:Tuesday | June 19, 2018 | 12:23 PM
Vitaly Milonov - AP photo

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) A conservative legislator in Russia says he wants to ban ”mockery” of the national soccer team because the players are "fighting for the honour of our country".

Vitaly Milonov told The Associated Press on Monday that soccer players and their coach should be considered like "our diplomats, our army,” notably during the World Cup that Russia is currently hosting.

The national team – and especially its coach – were the butt of widespread jokes and a popular parody song leading up to the tournament.

Milonov is part of a group of Russian lawmakers in the State Duma who drafted a bill imposing a fine of 10,000 rubles ($160) against anyone who criticises the team.

Milonov is best-known as the author of Russia’s law against gay "propaganda" toward minors.

"During the World Cup these people are fighting for the honour of the country,” he said in an interview in his hometown of St. Petersburg four days after Russia thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-0 to open the World Cup.

"It’s the responsibility of the state to defend its representatives from verbal abuse”.

"This is not just about football. This is about our national identity,” he said.

Milonov said that the bill is directed exactly against ”very brazen, ugly, fake and dirty” insulting comments regarding the Russian national team, and not casual jokes.

While Milonov is from the dominant pro-Kremlin party, it’s unclear whether the bill would win enough Duma support to become law.

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