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    Russia's top doc warns fans off Wales trip over swine flu fears

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    Russia's chief sanitary official said on Monday that the swine flu outbreak in the U.K. meant a trip to Wales to support the national team during its September 9 World Cup qualifier could threaten football fans' health.

    MOSCOW, August 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's chief sanitary official said on Monday that the swine flu outbreak in the U.K. meant a trip to Wales to support the national team during its September 9 World Cup qualifier could threaten football fans' health.

    Gennady Onishchenko told the PBK website that the Russian health authorities would advise fans not to travel to the game, set to take place in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

    He also suggested that the match should be called off, saying it was "an extremely unnecessary and inappropriate event during the current flu epidemic."

    "We will persuade our compatriots not to go to this match in Britain," he said.

    Although Britain has so far announced 11,000 swine flu cases, with 30 deaths, Onishchenko said that "our sources indicate that these figures are inaccurate."

    "The number of those infected could be tens or even hundreds of times higher," he said.

    However, a spokesman for Russian football's governing body told RIA Novosti that he would not want to see the Guus Hiddink's side without support for this key match.

    "Undoubtedly one needs to pay attention to the recommendations of the top doctor," the Russian Football Union's Andrei Malosolov told RIA Novosti.

    "We should also not forget however that Russia must not be left without support in Cardiff. Our fans will have their own seating area, where they will be isolated from other fans."

    To date, 39 Russians returning from Britain are suspected of having contracted swine flu. Russians has a total of 55 confirmed cases.

    Welsh FA spokesman Ceri Stennett told RIA Novosti that he believed Russian health authorities were being "unnecessarily alarmist," adding that swine flu cases were declining and that the virus was "not a major issue on the ground."

    "I would hope that the Russian fans will come. They will get a very warm welcome," he added.

    "The team is certainly coming," he said, adding that the FA had already received a letter asking for visa assistance for the Russian squad.

    Three of the current Russian national side, Andrei Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Yury Zhirkov ply their trade in England, with Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea, respectively.

    Russia are currently in second place in 2010 World Cup qualifying Group 4, one point behind leaders Germany. Wales are in fourth, and have little realistic chance of making the finals of the tournament, to be held in South Africa.

     

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