By Andrew Warshaw
September 30 – In a clear message to FIFA that racism is still prevalent despite the scrapping of its anti-discrimination body, Russian club FC Rostov are likely to face a UEFA disciplinary sanction after a banana was thrown on to the field during their Champions League game against PSV Eindhoven.
The FARE Network, which monitors racist incidents for UEFA, said the banana was thrown about eight minutes into Wednesday’s 2-2 draw. The game was already being played in a partially closed stadium after UEFA sanctioned Rostov for a previous incident of racism against Ajax in August.
The latest incident will not be lost on Russian football authorities who will come increasingly under scrutiny with the World Cup less than two years away.
Vyacheslav Koloskov, the Russian Football Union’s honorary president, said the incident could tarnish Russia’s image especially with Rostov-on-Don due to host games during the tournament.
“This banana could cost us heavily,” he told R-Sport news agency. “It’s not to be tolerated at any time, especially now. Rostov may be forced to play a game behind closed doors. It won’t affect [our staging of the 2018] World Cup, but given the negative past, you could not think of anything worse that could have happened.”
Non-white players, including former Brazil star Roberto Carlos, have regularly been taunted with bananas during Russian league games in recent years.
But Alexei Sorokin, the head of Russia’s World Cup organising committee, sought to play down the latest incident. “I think the incident in Rostov is unique and that this will not repeat itself in the future,” he said. “We follow this issue along with the Russian Football Union but it is obviously impossible to screen every person in the stands.”
Yet just like in other parts of eastern Europe, slow progress is being made to improve the situation. Current Russian league champions CSKA Moscow have been repeatedly punished by UEFA for offences including monkey chants aimed at opposition players. And two years ago, then-Rostov coach Igor Gamula was suspended by Russian authorities for derogatory comments about black players on his team.
FARE and the Moscow-based SOVA Center have reported a worrying increase in the number of racist incidents many of which go unpunished. Some 92 cases of discrimination were logged in the 2014-15 season, compared to 83 for the previous two seasons combined.
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