Are Russia really fit to host the World Cup?Posted: June 30, 2011
In 7 years, Russia will be hosting the FIFA World Cup. It’s the first time the country will host the event, but unless things change, maybe it’s a bit too soon, with racism still a massive problem in the game over there.
Last Wednesday, June 22nd, Brazil and Real Madrid legend Roberto Carlos was the target of racial abuse in a match between Krylya Sovetov and Anzhi Makhachkala, the latter of which is captained by the left-back. With minutes remaining and Anzhi 3-0 up, unexpectedly, a banana was thrown onto the pitch in the direction of Carlos. The disgusted captain removed his armband as he immediately left the pitch, refusing to finish the game. He spoke after the game and was upset about what happened: “It was a nasty surprise and I really hope that the Russian football authorities get to grips with this so that the person who did it is found and punished, I am used to there being no racism in football. Russia should not be an exception.” Players, fans and staff a like all supported his decision to leave the pitch.
It’s not the first time Roberto has been subject to racial abuse since he joined Anzhi in February. In a similar incident when playing against Zenit St. Petersburg in March, a fan threw a half peeled banana at him. The ‘fan’ has since been caught and banned from all of the club’s games. The search is still ongoing for the latest culprit with a reward also being offered for anyone with information.
In light of this, the Russian Football Union have toughened their stance on racism and Nazi symbolism in the game. The punishments now include a club playing up to three matches in front of an empty stadium or being forced to play a home game in another city. This may affect the club, but in the case of moving to another city, is it going to affect certain fans and see them change their ways? Unlikely.
It’s not as if it’s the first time its happened in Russia either. Peter Odemwingie, West Brom’s star striker, was playing with Lokomotiv Moscow before joining the Baggies. Odemwingie wasn’t a popular figure in his time there. It wasn’t for his quality, (21 goals in 75 games isn’t a bad return), but it was for the colour of his skin. Peter was undoubtedly glad to be leaving, but the fans gave him a send off. Most fans would hold up a banner simply saying ‘Thank you, Peter Odemwingie’, or whatever player it may be, but their one was different. A banner was unfurled, with a banana drawn on it, accompanied with the words ‘Thanks West Brom’. Odemwingie spoke about the racism issue over in Russia and wasn’t afraid to lash out at the minority of fans; “Coloured players feel the open racism there and I recall a game against CSKA Moscow when their fans started the sick noises (monkey chants) – I wouldn’t have any of it and gave it back to them. This was widely publicised because photographers had shots of my protest but still nothing was done to curb it. Sadly, it’s a picture of a minority group in Russia – it really makes you feel sick but that is what it is.”
Rather than condemn this act, Russia’s World Cup bid chief Alexei Sorokin fed us a pathetic explanation: “In Russia, ‘to get a banana’ means to fail a test somewhere.” Burnley defender Andre Bikey also once played for Lokomotiv. The Cameroonian feared for his own safety so much that he carried a gun with him in his time there, and hates looking back on his 2 years in Russia: “Russia has a different mentality,” he explains. “For a black person it is very hard to live, particularly outside Moscow. There are things I want to forget about my time there.”
Managers have also found the racism from the stands somewhat of a barrier in the way of them making signings. Former Zenit manager Dick Advocaat spoke of how he had no option but to make signings based on skin colour out of fear of the fans reaction: “The only players who can make Zenit stronger are dark skinned, but for us, it would be impossible. I would be happy to sign anyone, but the fans don’t like black players. I do not understand how they could pay so much attention to colour. For me, there is no difference – but they care.”
The same year he said this, Zenit were playing Marseille in the UEFA Cup, and this minority of fans decided to take their views and unleash them on another club in a different country. Ronald Zubar, Charles Kabore and Andre Ayew were all victims of racial abuse during the game, but it didn’t end there, it got much more disturbing, sickening and gruesome.
Justice Adjei, a Ghanaian student, was confronted after the match. The men, a group of white Zenit supporters, wasted no time in attacking him and stabbed him 36 times. Thankfully, he survived, however nobody has been charged with the disgusting and cowardly attack and justice has not been served.
These are very serious issues and are happening all too frequently. The World Cup is an event where people from all around the world of different religions, cultures and races unite for one sport, but it will be sad to see if it is disrupted by fans with warped views based on skin colour. We live in 2011, most countries have tackled racism and its a very rare problem in the majority of national leagues now, but Russia are still struggling with nipping it in the bud. Worse yet, if something isn’t done soon, the youngsters who attend these games may think this behaviour is okay and copy it, and affect their views on skin colour in a very negative sense as they grow up. There is also a clear lack of focus on public safety, for example, will the foreign fans be able to safely walk the streets?
FIFA need to take a good long look at themselves for this decision. If great football stadiums, culture, history and love of the sport mattered, then why didn’t England get it? It’s simple really, because it’s no longer enough, but Sepp Blatter (pictured below) and the other FIFA members will pretend that they do for a month when in reality it is probably coming down to who can give them the biggest bribes for votes. What’s worse is that those three things mattered when these FIFA members were watching and/or playing football, but unfortunately money now talks in a much more louder and dominating voice.
For some people, written work and written quotes aren’t persuasive enough, so that’s why I am providing some videos, that takes you into Russia and shows you just how serious the problem remains today, not just in football, but in the country as a whole to highlight how visiting fans could be putting their lives at risk over there.
*WARNING – VIDEOS 2 AND 3 CONTAIN VIOLENT SCENES YOU MAY FIND DISTURBING*
So it doesn’t matter if you’re a decent Nigerian striker or a legendary Brazilian defender, there seems to be no exceptions when it comes to racism, it’s your skin colour that matters and nothing else. In 2018, Russia welcome to world, but at the moment the world might be better off to ignore their welcome.
Whats your thoughts on the situation, are Russia fit to host the WC and should FIFA re-consider where the 2018 World Cup is held if racism persists? Please leave your thoughts below, no registration is needed and we always appreciate your feedback, thoughts and opinions.