Soccerstoriesbook's Blog


Defending Russian champion Zenit St. Petersburg was fined $10,620 for an incident a month earlier at its home league opener in which a Zenit fan offered a banana to former Brazil and Real Madrid star Roberto Carlos, who is winding down his career as captain of Anzhi Makhachkala.  Zenit went on to beat Anzhi, 2-0.

The Russian Football Union found Zenit guilty of “a racist insult and disorderly conduct.”

That same day, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with government officials, who addressed violence and ethnic tensions within the country.  Putin urged the RFU to work with fans to ensure peace when Russia hosts the 21st World Cup in 2018.

“We’ve promised FIFA, the world and sporting communities that Russia will hold the tournament under the principles of tolerance and goodwill,” Putin told members of the local World Cup organizing committee, “and these basic principles must be followed without any doubt or compromise.”  [April 6]

Comment:  Can Russia clean up its act in a mere seven years?

Zenit fans have become notorious for their racism.  Even former Holland boss and current Russia coach Dick Advocaat, who guided Zenit to the 2007-08 UEFA Cup title, accused them of preventing him from acquiring the players that could’ve taken the club to the next level.

“The problem is our fans,” he said in 2008.  “I would be happy to sign anyone but the fans don’t like black players.  I don’t understand how they could pay so much attention to skin color.  For me, there’s no difference between white, black or red.”

The incident at Zenit St. Petersburg’s Petrovsky Stadium, one of 16 designated sites for the 2018 World Cup, is only the tip of  the Russian iceberg.  This is a nation that has been wracked by acts of racism by its white majority against ethnic minorities since long before the breakup of the former Soviet Union.  If Russian fans can’t handle the sight of the bronze-skinned Roberto Carlos, proud possessor of a world champion’s medal and a veteran of more than 100 UEFA Champions League matches, how will they react in 2018 should Russia take the field in a World Cup quarterfinal against, say, Cameroon or Ghana?

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