MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian football fans should stay away from the national team's World Cup qualifying tie with Wales in Cardiff next month due to the risk of contracting swine flu, the state health agency said Monday.
"This would be an extremely uneccessary and inappropriate undertaking at a time of a flu epidemic," the head of Russia's state health agency Gennady Onishchenko said, according to local news agencies.
"We will persuade our compatriots not to go to this match in Britain," he said.
Onishchenko expressed fear that the "the expressions of emotion on the part of football fans involving intense shouting" could lead to the airborne transmission of the flu virus.
The two sides are due to play their group four qualifier on September 9.
Britain is the hardest hit country in Europe by the A(H1N1) virus with some 110,000 new cases last week of the virus, which started in Mexico before growing into a full-blown pandemic as defined by the World Health Organisation.
Russia has been relatively spared by the swine flu pandemic. Onishchenko said that according to the latest figures there were now 55 confirmed cases in the country.
The suggestions of Onishchenko -- who in July recommended banning trips by Russian school groups to Britain -- caused a degree of surprise among supporters of the resurgent national squad.
"We are recommending that Russian football supporters drink Welsh whisky, this will prevent all symptoms," quipped the head of the Russian supporters association, Alexander Shprygin, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.
The spokesman of the Russian football union, Andrei Malosolov, also indicated that the advice was not binding.
"We think Mr. Onishchenko's advice is useful," he told Echo of Moscow Radio.
"But football is football. The Russian team is playing a crucial match and we hope that the backing of our supporters will help us to win."
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