Zenit fans urge team not sign gay, black or South American players.
Zenit St Petersburg fans have stirred up a racism row with a manifesto urging the team not to sign gay players, black players or those from South America.
The document is unlikely to please the Russia outfits marquee summer signings, black midfielder Axel Witsel and South American striker Hulk.
A large Zenit fan movement called ‘Landskrona’ published the manifesto on its website, outlining its vision for a team without black or gay players, while insisting that the fans were not racists.
“We are not racists and for us the lack of black players at Zenit is just an important tradition, underlining the identity of the club,” it said.
It added the club “was never mentally linked with Africa, nor with South America or Australia or Oceania” and complained that “black players are now being imposed on Zenit practically by force.”
It also said that “we are against representatives of sexual minorities playing for Zenit,” who are currently third in the Russian Premier League.
The St Petersburg-based team owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom responded by telling the Interfax news agency that the club’s players “join our team not because of their nationality and skin colour” and urged fans to be tolerant.
“The fight with various forms of intolerance is the only principle for the development of our club, football and sport in the whole world,” it said.
The team’s striker Hulk, 26, joined in September this year on a reported transfer of 60 million euros from Porto.
His huge salary of $6.5 million a year sparked a rebellion among the Russian players.
The current team’s players come from Belgium, Portugal, Belarus, Italy, Slovakia, Denmark, Montenegro and Serbia as well as Russia.
Zenit have been troubled by fan violence in the past. The team had to pay a 19,000-dollar fine in November after Zenit fans threw a firecracker that injured Dynamo Moscow’s goalkeeper at an away match, forcing the match to be abandoned.
Some Russian fan groups have close links with nationalist movements and display racist banners while monkey chants at matches are common.
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