FIFA probes Rus­sia over racist chants

RFU ready to co­op­er­ate with world body over in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Global Times - - Sports -

FIFA has opened dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings against World Cup hosts Rus­sia over mon­key chants heard dur­ing a friendly in­ter­na­tional against France, a spokesman told AFP on Tues­day.

Manch­ester United mid­fielder Paul Pogba and Barcelona winger Ous­mane Dem­bele were al­legedly tar­geted by racist chant­ing dur­ing the match in Saint Petersburg last month.

The Rus­sian Foot­ball Union (RFU) said it was ready to co­op­er­ate with FIFA’s probe.

“We launched our own in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion the day af­ter the match,” RFU an­tidis­crim­i­na­tion of­fi­cer Alexan­der Bara­nov said.

“All in­ter­na­tional matches are played un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of FIFA. We opened it to un­der­stand what hap­pened for our­selves. We have sent in­quiries to the in­te­rior depart­ment.”

Bara­nov added that the RFU was “in di­a­logue with FIFA.” “We are ready to send them our find­ings – there is no prob­lem there,” he said.

Rus­sian soc­cer chiefs are un­der pres­sure with just two months to go be­fore the start of the World Cup on June 14 as the do­mes­tic game has been once again tar­nished by in­ci­dents of racism and hooli­gan­ism.

“These peo­ple should not be al­lowed into sta­di­ums,” said Alexei Smertin, head of the RFU’s anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion depart­ment. “They should not be giv­ing the world rea­son to think there is racism in our coun­try.”

Dur­ing last month’s friendly, an AFP pho­tog­ra­pher heard im­i­ta­tion mon­key noises aimed at Dem­bele, while in­ter­net users re­ported sim­i­lar abuse from sec­tions of the 50,000 crowd tar­get­ing Pogba.

The RFU’s ini­tial re­sponse was skep­ti­cal – claim­ing they had heard noth­ing – but the coun­try’s gov­ern­ing body then did launch its own in­ves­ti­ga­tion. FIFA fol­lowed suit af­ter French Sports Min­is­ter Laura Fles­sel, a two-time Olympic fenc­ing cham­pion, called for “Euro­pean and in­ter­na­tional” ac­tion.

The Rus­sian par­lia­ment’s deputy speaker, Igor Lebe­dev, blasted in­ac­tion in the coun­try over racism and called on “fans to stop this.”

“This is not just a prob­lem with our fans’ per­cep­tion of African-Amer­i­can and black play­ers,” he had said. “The prob­lem is else­where: None of this bad be­hav­ior will stop un­til we start pun­ish­ing it.”

Lebe­dev in­sisted that such in­ci­dents tak­ing place dur­ing the World Cup would “em­bar­rass the coun­try.”

But Deputy Prime Mis­ter Vi­taly Mutko played down the in­ci­dent, say­ing that mon­key chants heard at the game “do not mean that this was some sort of or­ga­nized act of racism.”

“There might be el­e­ments of it,” said Mutko, who has tem­porar­ily stepped down from his role as RFU pres­i­dent.

“Around 50,000 peo­ple turn up for games and there could be some provo­ca­tions.”

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