Russia 2018 World Cup bid was at the centre of a growing race controversy as the scale of racism and racist attacks in the former Soviet Union threatened to derail their bid to host the World Cup.
In May 2006 Amnesty International reported that racism in Russia was ‘”out of control”.
Concerns were exacerbated over the weekend after Russian fans were captured abusing new West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie recently signed from Russian team Dynamo Lokomotiv.
Odemwingie answered by scoring the winner on his debut on Saturday. But back in Moscow Lokomotiv’s racist supporters unfurled a giant banner showing a picture of a banana and the words: “Thanks West Brom.”
OBV’s director Simon Woolley condemned Russia’s failure to tackle racism and the actions of the Lokomotiv fans. He said:
“Serious racist attacks on both the African and the Roma community continue without a serious response from the Russian authorities.”
“Racist murders and deep hostility to African and Roma peoples are commonplace in Russia and the extreme right wing are engaged in an ongoing campaign of racial terrorism. The authorities refuse to take serious action. For similar reasons I am equally worried about the European championship that will be held in Poland and the Ukraine.”
Woolley went on to call for Russia’s World Cup bid to be voted down.
“FIFA, the African nations along with other progressive nations should not reward racism and refuse to support Russia with the their World Cup bid.”
UK Sports Minister Hugh Robertson commented:
“Racism has no place in football or sport in general. If there is evidence that it has taken place I’d hope the relevant authorities would take a tough line.”
In the 2008 fans of Zenit Saint Petersburg targeted Uefa Cup, Marseille players Ronald Zebra, Andre Ayew and Charles Kabhore. And Cameroon and Burnley defender Andre Bikey was subjected to sick chants during his time at Lokomotiv Moscow.
Kevin Miles, chairman of the Football Supporters’ Federation, said:
“I can’t see how a country with that kind of prejudice can seriously be considered appropriate for the World Cup.”
Gerry Gable, publisher of anti-racism magazine Searchlight, said:
“They have to go a long way to make it a safe environment for fans of countries in Africa and Asia.”