A prominent fanclub for Russia’s biggest football team Zenit published a manifesto this week that attempts to justify their longstanding call for no black or gay players, saying it is important to preserve the traditional and national identity of the side.
The fan group has, however, denied being racist.
“We’re not racists but we see the absence of black players at Zenit as an important tradition,” Zenit fan club Landscrona said in a letter, called the “Selection 12 manifesto”, posted on its website (www.landscrona.ru) on Monday.
“It would allow Zenit to maintain the national identity of the club, which is the symbol of St Petersburg.”
“We only want players from other brotherly Slav nations, such as Ukraine and Belarus as well as from the Baltic states and Scandinavia. We have the same mentality and historical and cultural background as these nations,” the letter said.
Their reasoning also mentions that they believe African players would struggle with the climate, and that they “want players closer to our soul and mentality to play for Zenit.”
The fanclub isn’t thrilled about homosexuality either, saying, ”We are against the inclusion of representatives of sexual minorities in the Zenit team.” They add that some of the other “human qualities” they want to see is a rejection of smoking and alcohol.
The football club has refused to comment directly on the racism and homophobia underpinning this manifesto, but has instead issued the following:
“Players get into our team not by nationalities and skin color but sporting qualities and achievements…
“Club policy is aimed at development and integration into the society of world football and does not uphold archaic views.”
The club is the only top flight team in Russia to have never signed a black player and it has been reported that several “prominent black players” have turned down lucrative contracts with Zenit after receiving death threats.
This year saw Euro 2012 marred by racist chanting aimed at a black Czech football player by Russian supporters at the Russia vs Czech Republic match in Wroclaw, Poland. The match also saw violent acts against stewards carried out by Russia’s supporters.
The Zenit controversy comes just as Amnesty International issues a call to Russia’s lawmakers that they should at once cease any action on a bill that, like the St Petersburg law before it but on a national scale, would ban “promotion” of LGBT identity in the public square, under the guise of protecting children.
The law would make the promotion of homosexuality punishable with a fine up to 500,000 rubles (US$16,200).
“This law is an anachronism. It will promote stigmatization by perpetuating the view that children should be protected from homosexuality. It will discriminate against LGBTI people, in a country where discrimination on ground of sexual orientation and gender identity is already widespread,” John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International, is quoted as saying.
“This law will deny LGBTI people equality before the law by curtailing the activities of LGBTI human rights defenders, some of whom have already been harassed and assaulted. It will deprive LGBTI people of information that could be crucial for their sexual health.”
The law, like the St Petersburg version before it, suffers from no actual explanation for what constitutes “propaganda of homosexuality” and thus could be used as an excuse to simply infringe on rights of freedom of speech and assembly.
The first reading of the ban is due to receive a vote this week.
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