During a match between Zenit St. Petersburg and FC Krasnodar, Zenit supporters revealed a banner with a message to those at the head of their club that read (roughly translated): “Thank you leadership for loyalty to traditions.” The sarcastic statement was made in response to the club signing ex-Barcelona midfielder Malcom on a transfer this week. Malcom is black and his signing apparently broke some sort of long-held tradition within the club to not recruit black players.
A very stupid explanation of the banner was posted online on a site dedicated to a section of the club’s supporters. It reads (as translated by The Sun):
We are not racist and for us the absence of black players is just an important tradition, emphasizing the identity of the club and nothing more.
We, as the northernmost club of the major European cities, have never been mentally connected with Africa, however, as with South America or Australia or Oceania.
We have absolutely nothing against the inhabitants of these and any other continents, but at the same time we want players who are close in spirit to speak for Zenit.
Now, Zenit black football players are being forced almost by force, and this causes only a backlash.
Let us be what we are.
In addition, we can not ignore the specifics of the Russian championship. Our country is dominated by tough, strong soccer in the fields, many of which leave much to be desired.
In addition, most of the championship takes place in fairly severe weather. Under these conditions it is quite difficult for technical players from warm countries to fully discover their football talent.
It is worth noting that the size of the banner was rather small compared to the significantly larger Tifo it was draped over, which shows that this opinion wasn’t exactly held by everyone in the stadium.
At the same time, this level of racism among Russian fans is not exactly a break from the norm, according to numerous player testimonials. When Brazilian forward Hulk played for Zenit, he said he encountered racism in every game he played. When Nigerian striker Osaze Odemwingie left Lokomotiv Moscow to go to West Brom, the fans put up a banner that said “Thanks West Brom” and included the image of a banana. When Yaya Toure started for Manchester City against CSKA Moskow, he was the victim of racist taunts. Not even Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos was immune as he had bananas thrown at him in multiple games he played in the country.
The list goes on and on and will continue to go down that direction until serious action is taken.