Russian football’s extreme racism will wreak havoc in 2018

This summer has been a rejuvenating one for football fans with the corrupt evil that existed within FIFA being dragged outside by the FBI and beaten to a pulp.

Sadly, there was no arrest warrant issued for outgoing president Sepp Blatter, who insisted he could not control everybody in such a vast organisation, but there is hope the findings will instigate a fresh start for football.

News arose as documents from the investigation by the US intelligence service was made public, that bribes had been accepted by football’s leading monopoly as stretched back as 1998 with regards to World Cup bids, revealed by FBI informant Chuck Blazer, former executive at FIFA.

As the examination continues, what has infuriated fans in particular, even when there was no proof or findings of bribery and corruption, was the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar in 2010.

However, what flew under the radar was Russia’s successful bid for the upcoming tournament in 2018. Racism, homophobia and xenophobia are still rife in the country, yet it has not become evident to many that these are instrumental reasons as to why the honour of being the one place on earth should not be granted to Russia.

Different cultures, ethnicities and fans both hetero and homosexual come together to feast their eyes on a mass football tournament, yet how can they enjoy such an occasion with more than probable threats to their lives await them should they travel to the games?

Zenit St Petersburg and Russia star Hulk conveyed his fears that racism could tarnish the country’s reputation, not that it is anything stellar, in the World Cup.

The most expensive player in Russia’s history has spoken of being the victim of racial abuse in every single game he competes in, and in December of last year claimed the referee in Zenit’s game against FC Mordovia Saransk made derogatory comments about his skin colour.

“If [racism] happens in the World Cup, it will be really gross and really ugly. Usually it happens when Russian clubs play and it doesn’t come out to the world and the world doesn’t know about this,” he said through a translator.

“I must say that almost every game I see this happening. I used to get angry, but now I see this doesn’t help, so I just send a kiss to our fans and try not to get angry.”

His manager, Andre Villas-Boas, branded his abuse a disgrace, and remarked how the image of Russian football is blotted by incidents of racism.

“The insults, the racist insults to Hulk, they go around the world, and this is the image of the Russian Premier League.”

The former Porto striker has not helped himself by agreeing to be a part of the preliminary draws for the tournament in a show that his words about the World Cup held little value if he is willing to participate in the draw.

The attitudes bandied about within Russia tell journalists, fans and players that the country’s leading people in football seem to have a lackadaisical approach in combating the issues within their game. Vyacheslav Koloskov, former head of the Russian FA, insisted that “too much is made” of the racism in his country’s game last March, and made an outrageous statement surrounding monkey chants. Incredibly, Koloskov was FIFA vice-president for 16 years.

“Monkey chants are believed to be racist. Where is it written?”

Current chief Anatoly Vorobyov has demanded that the problem be eradicated, but it is one of the understatements of the year to say that everything is not “running smoothly”. Blatter is as always, almost amusingly simple about the matter.  Speaking to Associated Press, the Swiss affirmed that “sure we are concerned, definitely” along with his supremely trustworthy proposal that “racism is one of the items which is on my agenda on the very top, every day. ” This is coming from the man who has supported the award of the World Cup venue to Russia vigorously.

Despite Russia and FIFA’s attempts to batten down the hatch in the matter of racism in football, the recent extensive FARE report gave 120 reasons as to why the world of football needs to launch a mass counter against racism. 99 racist and far-right displays and 21 racially-motivated attacks by Russian football fans in 2012-13 and 2013-14 were documented in the damning dispatch of reported violence.


“Russian football is plagued by a racist and far-right extremist fan culture that threatens the safety of visitors to the 2018 World Cup”

The Associated Press also carried out a report, concluding that the following measures need to be taken in order to ensure fan safety in 2018.

  • • apply sanctions for discriminatory conduct consistently
  • • create a plan to take on far-right groups
  • • prioritize educating Russians about xenophobia and actively promote diversity in World Cup host cities.

Moreover, if aggravated episodes of racial violence involving Roberto Carlos, Christopher Samba and Yaya Toure does not convince readers that a serious renovation of Russia’s football is desperately needed, the suspension handed to ex-Arsenal man Emmanuel Frimpong should suffice.

Suffering racial abuse from Spartak fans, notorious for incidents such as these, Frimpong raised a finger towards a section of the home support in protest of their cowardly actions. The uproar from the Ghanian midfielder is not because of the ban, but because of the Russian football’s union’s verdict, clearing Spartak of any wrongdoing.

An extract taken from an eye-opening Guardian article “Racism in Russia laid bare” by Alec Luhn hammers home the disgusting brutality used on victims of racism in Russia in harrowing detail.

Lokomotiv fans began to chant at a qualifying match on 23 August 2012 between the Dutch club AZ Alkmaar and Anzhi Makhachkala, a team from Russia’s mostly Muslim Caucasus region that were renting the Lokomotiv stadium in Moscow.

Police detained some 80 fans and Anzhi went on to win the game. But after their victory groups of hooligans attacked Anzhi fans in the metro station Chistye Prudy, splattering the platform in blood. A Russian nationalist organisation later said on social media that 70 Lokomotiv fans had taken part in the assault using traumatic pistols

BBC Sport’s headline article “Could racism damage 2018 World Cup?” yesterday was irksome and naive to say the least. Racism will cripple and devastate the World Cup, not just simply damage it. The irreparable damage done to the Russian game by hateful fans strikes fear into local fans and travelling support for European encounters alike. Football should not be a sport where you fear for your safety travelling to and from a game.

If a host country’s fans of such a gargantuan sporting tournament is allowed to have ties to racism and xenophobia and wreak terrifying havoc because of a skin colour, or sexual preference, the country does not deserve to be bestowed with such a competition.