Russia has defended itself against the accusation that it has failed to tackle serious racism in football and wider society.
Recent controversy in a league game where Lokomotiv Moscow fans celebrated Nigerian Peter Odemwingie’s sale in the transfer window with a banner showing a banana and the message: “Thanks West Brom” have raised further concerns about racism in Russia.
Alex Sorokin speaking on behalf of Russian Football Union told BBC Sport:
“The RFU doesn’t accept any demonstrations of racism.”
However Russian Football Union’s (RFU) disciplinary body held a board meeting on 25 August, but despite strong evidence decided not to fine Lokomotiv.
“I know that this banner applied to a certain player and to the manner of how he played in his last matches.”
“Apparently fans were not happy with the fact that he plays better for Nigeria and worse for the club. That’s why they have shown their satisfaction after he left. And there is nothing racial in it. If there would be another player – from Russia, Denmark, Norway or Japan, for example – the reaction could be the same. In Russia ‘to get a banana’ means ‘to fail a test somewhere’.”
“The Russian football union doesn’t absolutely accept any demonstrations of racism and roughly restrains them with all available methods.”
However Galina Kozhevnikova, deputy director of the Russian SOVA Centre for Information and Analysis, which monitors extremism in Russia, suggested the RFU had its head in the sand over the issue of racism.
“If everybody sees racism in this banner, including the player, it’s absurd to refuse,” said Kozhevnikova.
“The phrase ‘to get a banana’ existed in the time of the Soviet Union and has almost disappeared from the slang. The RFU simply doesn’t want to recognize that banner as a racism. According to officials, recognition of the problem will make Russia’s chances to host the World Cup uncertain. That’s a typical logic of officials but it’s senseless to refuse the problem.
“Officials don’t understand that recognition of the problem is a step to it’s resolution.”
The extent of racism in Russia is extreme and there are real concerns that non white football fans from across the world would be in grave danger attending a World Cup in Russia.
Russia Footbal Union have recently been visited by the Fifa World Cup inspection team. According to Sorokin, the Russian Football Union and Fifa did not mention the subject of racism during the world governing body’s visit.
“No, we didn’t discuss it,” said Sorokin. “I don’t understand why did everybody decide that there is such a burning question for us? There is no such problem in itself.”
Commenting on this Simon Woolley, of Operation Black Vote, said:
“Russian racism is out of control and it is beyond comprehension that Fifa would fail to raise this issue in their recent visit. The evidence of extreme and violent racism in Russia is overwhelming and it would be inconceivable that these issues were not discussed. The risk of racist murders and violent attacks on people attending a World Cup in Russia is so high that I believe death or serious injury is inevitable if they win the bid.”
“I will be now be writing to Fifa to express the serious concerns about Russian racism, the states failure to effectively deal with racism an the acute danger posed to football fans from across the world. In the face of such overwhelming evidence it is inconceivable that Russia be awarded the World Cup.”
Russia is a deeply racist society where the Government and the police are facing unprecedented levels of violent racism across the country.
A Moscow based anti racist organisation Sova claims that at as many as 60 people were victims of racist murders last year alone. In May 2006 Amnesty International reported that racism in Russia was ‘”out of control”.
In February 2007 president Vladimir Putin requested the Federal security Services to take the lead in combating racism. In 2007 a video of two Russian neo Nazis beheading two Muslims was posted on the Internet.
More recently in July 2010, at least 8 people became victims of racist and neo-Nazi attacks, namely in Moscow and the region, in Vladivostok, Voronezh, Kaluga region, and Perm. In July 2009, one person was murdered and 12 seriously injured in racist attacks.
Since January 2010, 19 people have been murdered in racist attacks and 58 people were injured. During the same period in 2009, 53 people were dead and 259 injured
Fifa’s executive committee will decide who will host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022 at a meeting in Zurich on 2 December