A supporters’ group for Russian soccer champions, Zenit St. Petersburg has called for non-white and gay players to be excluded from the team.
Landscona, the Russian champions’ largest fans’ group, released an open letter that stated black players are ‘forced down Zenit’s throat,’ and then added that gay players are ‘unworthy of our great city.’
They also said, “We’re not racists but we see the absence of black players at Zenit as an important tradition. It would allow Zenit to maintain the national identity of the club, which is the symbol of St. Petersburg.”
Up until this summer, Zenit, were the only top-flight club in Russia without a black player, they then signed Brazilian striker Hulk and Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel.
Nikolai Grammatikov, the secretary of the union of football players and coaches in Russia, believes players should refuse to join Russian clubs, in order to send a message to the nation’s football authorities.
“The best way of acting against this is when the players that are invited to come to Russia, the black players especially, say ‘Sorry I would love to come as it is probably an interesting Championship, but the Federation has to do something because I am not going there because of the racists,” remarked Grammatikov.
Zenit’s manager, the Italian Luciano Spalletti, also noted, “I can personally assure you that I will do everything I can to help those who seek to explain to people what tolerance is, and the need to respect other cultures and traditions.” He then described the supporters’ request as ‘stupidity.’