Zenit Fan Group: No Blacks, No Gays
Published: December 19, 2012 (Issue # 1740)
Fans ofátwo-time defending Russian champion Zenit St. Petersburg are calling foránon-white andágay players toábe excluded fromáthe team.
Landscrona, theálargest Zenit supporters club, released aámanifesto Monday demanding theáclub field anáall-white, heterosexual team. It added that ôdark-skinned players are all but forced down Zenitĺs throat now, which only brings out aánegative reactionö andásaid gay players were ôunworthy ofáour great city.ö
Theáclub, which is owned byástate-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom, told theáR-Sport news agency that it supported tolerance andápicked players onáathletic ability alone, insisting that ôthe teamĺs policy is aimed atádevelopment andáintegration intoáthe world soccer community, andáholds no archaic views.ö
Zenit had been theáonly top-flight Russian team never toáhave signed aáblack player until this summer, when it acquired Brazilian striker Hulk andáBelgian midfielder Axel Witsel forá80 million euros ($105 million). French midfielder Yann MĺVila declined aámove toáthe club ináAugust after receiving death threats.
Fans insisted that ôwe are not racists and, foráus, theáabsence ofáblack Zenit players is just anáimportant tradition that underlines theáteamĺs identity andánothing more.ö
Russia has struggled toádeal with racism andáviolence atáits stadiums as it prepares toáhost theáWorld Cup iná2018. Black players are frequently theátargets ofámonkey chants andásome, including Anzhi Makhachkalaĺs Robert Carlos andáChristopher Samba, have had bananas thrown atáthem byáfans.
Officials have atátimes shown little enthusiasm forátargeting racism. When Lokomotiv Moscow fans held up aábanner iná2010 thanking anáEnglish team forásigning their black striker Peter Odemwingie with aápicture ofáa banana, theáhead ofáRussiaĺs World Cup bid awkwardly claimed they were referencing aáquaint, little-used Russian expression meaning ôto fail anáexam.ö
Zenitĺs fans have long been theácountryĺs most problematic. Dick Advocaat, theáteamĺs former Dutch manager, once admitted that ôthe fans donĺt like black playersö andáthat it would be ôimpossibleö foráZenit toásign one.
Several black players have also singled out Zenitĺs fans as particularly racist. Former Russian top scorer Vagner Love told aáBrazilian newspaper ináApril that Zenit was ôthe most racist team ináRussiaö andáthe only one whose fans had abused him ináhis seven years playing foráCSKA Moscow.
Five years earlier, Krylya Sovetov Samaraĺs former Cameroon international Serge Branco told aálocal newspaper that Zenitĺs management was ôthe real racistsö foránot combating theáproblem, adding that ôin aácivilized country theyĺd smack them down toáthe third division forátheir fansĺ behavior.ö
Zenitĺs fans have also come under theáspotlight recently after one ofáthem threw aáfirecracker that injured Dinamo Moscowĺs goalkeeper during aámatch ináNovember. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, himself aáZenit fan, called foráviolent spectators toábe banned forálife fromáattending matches. Parliament has drafted aábill that would ban hooligans foráa year.