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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

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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