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Racist Russian fans veto black players

INTOLERANT: Zenit fans welcome Russian security forces on a matchday

THE CLUB of Russia’s second city is the sole one in the highest division of Russian league football never to have signed an African player, and a Zenit St Petersburg fan organisation wants to keep it that way.

In an open letter published on its website,, the group called for “principles for selection” and outlined its ideal parameters for future signings.

Called “Selection Manifesto 12”, the letter read: “We object to representatives of sexual minorities playing for Zenit.”

Displaying at what best can be called cognitive dissonance, the fans claimed not to be racist in demanding an all-white team. “We are not racists and for us, the lack of black players at Zenit is only an important tradition, which emphasises the identity of the club and nothing more.

“Zenit has its own identity in the world of football, along with a number of football clubs that have retained their own identity.

“As the most northern club of the major European cities, we have never been associated with Africa, South America or Australia and Oceania.

“We have absolutely nothing against the people of these and any other continent. But now black players are being imposed on Zenit almost by force.”

Footballers who do fit their racially selective criteria are ones whose motherlands are other Slavic nations such as Ukraine, Poland and Belarus, and also Baltic and Scandinavian countries.

The fans went on to demand more home-grown players and rejected the notion of having gay players donning the badge and colours of their team.

Zenit’s Italian manger, Luciano Spalletti, the former Roma coach, distanced himself from his team's supporters. Though not directly referring to the letter, he used the club's official website to promote a message of tolerance.

RACIST CAULDRON: Zenit fans light up an opposition scarf in their stadium

“Tolerance for me is the ability to understand and accept differences. Furthermore, being tolerant means that you fight against any kind of stupidity”, said the 53-year-old.

“I can personally assure you that I will do everything I can to help those who seek to explain what tolerance is, and the need to respect other cultures and traditions.

“The team has gathered players from different countries and ethnic groups who work together to achieve a common goal. Their combined efforts bring tangible results”, he added.

Over the summer Zenit splurged more than £60m on Brazilian attacker Hulk and Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel – though not Africans both players’ skin tone does not exactly fit the bill of the fans' preferred selection methodology. Also, their transfers rocked the boat for some of the club’s more established players. In September, Russia captain Igor Denisov was demoted to the reserve team after he refused to play, because his salary was below what Hulk earns.

Northern parts of St Petersburg are known to contain extremist, far-right and fascist elements. The city, formerly known as Leningrad under the days of the Soviet regime, is one of the host municipalities for the 2018 World Cup finals.

Had enough of racism in football? Back our campaign Enough is Enough - Get Onside. Sign the petition here

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