Racism hits Russian football again

Until now I have spoken with seven people who were at the Torpedo – Zenit game last week, with dozens more who, like me, watched on TV. I have yet to hear anyone say that they heard the racist noises that will see the Moscow side play two games without fans.

As things go, Torpedo are getting their third slap for some sort of racist behaviour this season. While I have some doubts about what took place, it is the latest shot across the bows of Russian football.

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Their fans came out strongly on the issue, rejecting the allegations and explaining their version, but they did this each other time too. Indeed Spartak fans, who were in trouble and banned this season for similar stupidity, rolled out the same excuses.

The same happens each time there is an incident of this type, but who can blame them. Fans take their lead from those at the top, so when the head of the Premier League and a spokesperson from the RFU both come out with:

This behaviour has no place in our game. But sure don’t they have the same problems in England.

This morally and ethically bankrupt whataboutery sickens supporters to the stomach, but plays well with the gombeens who shout the loudest.

And this is where we stand in Russia. Zero leadership, zero responsibility and zero vision of the future. So what will change?

My former Boss is a good guy. We spent many nights listening to music, making plans and generally having the craic. He had a lack of patience at times that was difficult and his attention to detail was, well, deletable. But be honest with him and he would defend you to the last.

Yet I saw how colleagues behaved when they messed up or simply forgot a task, they would say nothing. They’d wait until they were found out, take the flak, then a) go on as if nothing happened, or b) complain and whinge. They felt and took almost zero responsibility for their or others actions. There was always an excuse or someone else to blame.

This is endemic in Russia. Instead of telling the gobdaw hurling racist abuse or bananas at an athlete, a couple will guffaw and the vast majority giggle, tut tut or stay silent.

Can anyone imagine what would happen if a drunken scumbag were to throw a banana at a coloured player in the Brandywell or Oriel? Both stadia have their fair share of half wits inside and outside the ground, but what would happen?

I once made the mistake, when working with a club in Croatia, of politely asking a Director of our opposing club to stop racially abusing a coloured Uruguayan player of ours. He threatened to shoot me and I knew he would.

He served his time in prison for crimes against Croatian Serbs and everyone knew he had form. Not a single colleague backed me. Later I was told, sure it’s always been this way. They were telling the truth.

So when Pryadkin, head of the RFPL, and his ilk are quick to deflect and lie, who is going to take a lead? Fan groups…no chance. Club owners…not a hope. Government…no one believes them. Media…who fan hatred hourly. Liberals…who laud corrupt slime balls like Nemtsov, no chance.

It will only happen when football supporters feel empowered enough to take back control of the sport to ensure that football stadia are a place for families, friends and guests to be. Right now, I don’t see anyone ready to stand up to be counted.

The Author

Alan Moore

Russian based sports journalist and consultant, working with major clubs including Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt, Lokomotiv and Spartak Moscow. Current host of Capital Sports FM in Moscow, former international boxer and semi-professional footballer and commentated at the FIFA World Cup 2018.

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