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Zenit Fan Group: No Blacks, No Gays

Published: December 19, 2012 (Issue # 1740)



  • Zenits Hulk and Axel Witsel attend a match between Zenit and Terek Grozny in St. Petersburg back in September.
    Photo: DMITRY LOVETSKY / AP

Fans oftwo-time defending Russian champion Zenit St. Petersburg are calling fornon-white andgay players tobe excluded fromthe team.

Landscrona, thelargest Zenit supporters club, released amanifesto Monday demanding theclub field anall-white, heterosexual team. It added that dark-skinned players are all but forced down Zenits throat now, which only brings out anegative reaction andsaid gay players were unworthy ofour great city.

Theclub, which is owned bystate-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom, told theR-Sport news agency that it supported tolerance andpicked players onathletic ability alone, insisting that the teams policy is aimed atdevelopment andintegration intothe world soccer community, andholds no archaic views.

Zenit had been theonly top-flight Russian team never tohave signed ablack player until this summer, when it acquired Brazilian striker Hulk andBelgian midfielder Axel Witsel for80 million euros ($105 million). French midfielder Yann MVila declined amove tothe club inAugust after receiving death threats.

Fans insisted that we are not racists and, forus, theabsence ofblack Zenit players is just animportant tradition that underlines theteams identity andnothing more.

Russia has struggled todeal with racism andviolence atits stadiums as it prepares tohost theWorld Cup in2018. Black players are frequently thetargets ofmonkey chants andsome, including Anzhi Makhachkalas Robert Carlos andChristopher Samba, have had bananas thrown atthem byfans.

Officials have attimes shown little enthusiasm fortargeting racism. When Lokomotiv Moscow fans held up abanner in2010 thanking anEnglish team forsigning their black striker Peter Odemwingie with apicture ofa banana, thehead ofRussias World Cup bid awkwardly claimed they were referencing aquaint, little-used Russian expression meaning to fail anexam.

Zenits fans have long been thecountrys most problematic. Dick Advocaat, theteams former Dutch manager, once admitted that the fans dont like black players andthat it would be impossible forZenit tosign one.

Several black players have also singled out Zenits fans as particularly racist. Former Russian top scorer Vagner Love told aBrazilian newspaper inApril that Zenit was the most racist team inRussia andthe only one whose fans had abused him inhis seven years playing forCSKA Moscow.

Five years earlier, Krylya Sovetov Samaras former Cameroon international Serge Branco told alocal newspaper that Zenits management was the real racists fornot combating theproblem, adding that in acivilized country theyd smack them down tothe third division fortheir fans behavior.

Zenits fans have also come under thespotlight recently after one ofthem threw afirecracker that injured Dinamo Moscows goalkeeper during amatch inNovember. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, himself aZenit fan, called forviolent spectators tobe banned forlife fromattending matches. Parliament has drafted abill that would ban hooligans fora year.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Oct. 20


Amateur pictures from World War I are on display for only one more day at Rosphotos exhibition On Both Sides, chronicling the conflict through the eyes of observers on both sides of the trenches. The price of entrance to the exhibition is 100 rubles ($2.50).



Tuesday, Oct. 21


The Environment, Health and Safety Committee of AmCham convenes this morning at 9 a.m. in the organizations office.


Take the chance to pick the brains of Dmitry V. Krivenok, the deputy director of the Economic Development Agency of the Leningrad region, and Mikhail D. Sergeev, the head of the Investment Projects Department, during the meeting with them this morning hosted by SPIBA. RSVP for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru before Oct. 17 if you wish to attend.


Improve your English at Interactive English, the British Book Centers series of lessons on vocabulary and grammar in an informal atmosphere. Starting at 6 p.m., each month draws attention to different topics in English, with the topic for this months lessons being visual arts.



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