Fans of the premier Russian soccer team Zenit St. Petersburg are calling for a ban on gay and non-white players, an embarrassing development as Russia readies to host the World Cup in 2018.
In a proclamation released today, the team’s largest booster club, Landscrona, demanded Zenit put together an all-white, heterosexual team, as “dark-skinned players are all but forced down Zenit’s throat now” and gay players are “unworthy of our great city.”
All white, straight men? Are they playing soccer or joining the Republican Party?
Management at Zenit St. Petersburg say players are picked on their merit alone: “The team’s policy is aimed at development and integration into the world soccer community, and holds no archaic views.” Zenit head coach Luciano Spalletti was also quick to distance himself from the decree. “Tolerance, for me, is most of all the ability to understand and accept differences,” said Spalletti. “Furthermore, being tolerant means that you fight against any kind of stupidity.”
Given St. Petersburg’s ban of gay “propaganda,” we’re thinking Spalletti encounters that kind of stupidity alot. The AP reports:
Zenit was the only top-flight Russian team without a black player until this summer, when it acquired Brazilian striker Hulk and Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel for 80 million euros ($105 million). French midfielder Yann M’Vila declined a move to the club in August after receiving death threats.
Fans insisted that “we are not racists and “For us the absence of black Zenit players is just an important tradition that underlines the team’s identity and nothing more.”
Russia has struggled to deal with racism and violence at its stadiums as it prepares to host the 2018 World Cup. Black players are frequently the targets of monkey chants and some, including Anzhi Makhachkala’s Robert Carlos and Christopher Samba, have had bananas thrown at them by fans.
You know, we have a hard enough time understanding why people care so much about sports in the first place.