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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Russian football is blighted by systematic racism, says FARE network

Russian domestic football is blighted by "systematic" racism that will take several years to root out if it is to host the 2018 World Cup, according to a leading European anti-racism campaign group.
Russia's World Cup bid has been dented by recent incidents including the unveiling of a banner featuring a banana with the words "Thanks West Brom" aimed at West Bromwich Albion striker Peter Odemwingie by fans of his former club Lokomotiv Moscow.

Russia 2018 chief executive Alexei Sorokin initially denied that the incident was racist, claiming that the phrase "to get a banana" meant to fail a test in Russian slang. "There was nothing racial in it," Sorokin said.

Sorokin's view has been challenged however by the FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) Network, a coalition of football anti-racism campaigners that has run campaigns with Fifa and Uefa.

Piara Powar, executive director of FARE, said the banner was clearly racist in intention, and indicated that the Russian game faced wider problems.

"The context in which the banner was used was clearly racist in context, and to suggest otherwise is a nonsense," he told Telegraph Sport.

"Russian domestic football has a problem with racism that is quite systematic and insidious, it is linked to the activities of far-right groups that emerged after the collapse of the eastern bloc and have used football as a vehicle.

"Compared to the work that has been done in England, Russian football is on a different planet, and if it were to stage the World Cup in four years there is no chance racism would have been dealt with.

"But if it were to win the right to host the 2018 tournament there would be time to address the problem and I'm sure that they would do so.

"We are trying to get in touch with the Russian bid to start a dialogue about this."

The Telegraph