By Andrew Warshaw
January 15 – The tired claim by Russia’s World Cup organisers that racism is no worse in their country than elsewhere in football and only occasionally rears its ugly head has yet again been called into question by the latest distasteful incident involving Spartak Moscow.
This time, even FIFA has got involved, condemning the club over Saturday’s racially-charged tweet that caused a social media outcry.
In a video published on their Twitter account on Saturday, the club showed three black players training in Dubai, with the caption: “Look at how the chocolates are melting under the sun.”
The fact that the tweet, which was deleted after a few hours, was posted by the club itself rather than by a section of its fans took the argument over racism in Russian football to a whole new level, with FIFA saying it “condemns the message published on Twitter account of Spartak Moscow.”
“As said many times, any form of discrimination on or outside the field is unacceptable and has no place in football.”
Despite its critical statement made to Sky, FIFA declined to pass any further judgement, conveniently passing the buck to the Russian Football Union which, in all likelihood, will take no action.
“As to the handling of this matter, this falls under the responsibility of the relevant national body,” FIFA said.
Spartak inevitably faced a barrage of criticism with the British-based body Kick It Out saying the “post from the official account of Spartak Moscow only continues to highlight the prejudices towards black people in Russia.”
“With the World Cup only a few months away, it is a reminder that Russia, as with the whole of football, has significant work to do to eradicate racism of all forms from the game.”
Russia has pledged to crack down on racism in the build-up to the World Cup and will no doubt be extra-vigilant to make sure there are no instances once the tournament gets under way. But Saturday’s tweet was also condemned by the head of FARE, European football’s influential anti-discrimination group.
“Racism is one of the biggest issues Russia faces in the year they host the World Cup. References like this show how some minorities are seen by some in the country,” said Piara Powar.
“For Russia’s biggest club to tolerate and then celebrate racist references of this kind is wrong. They were sanctioned for Islamophobic chanting recently but clearly the message has not reached the players or the club management.”
Several hours after the contentious tweet was removed, a new hastily produced trouble-shooting message featured defender Georgi Dzhikiya saying “there is no racism in our team, we are all brothers, we’re one big family”, and Spartak’s Brazilian striker Luiz Adriano echoing similar sentiments.
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