TheRussianFootballUnion(RFU)Disciplinaryhave sanctioned ZenitStPetersburgFrenchplayer YohanMolloforrespondingtohomophobicabuseaimedtowardshim.The playerwasgivenatwo-matchbanandfined 20,000rubles(around286EUR)forshowingthemiddlefingertothefans.
The incident took place at the Russian Football National League match, the country’s lower professional league, between Zenit-2 and ‘Siberia’ Novosibirsk on 26 July. During the first half, according to Sovsport.ru, fans of the St Petersburg team allegedly chanted ‘Mollo is a faggot’ to which the player responded by showing the middle finger to the crowd as he was leaving the pitch at half-time.
After the final whistle the player told Sport Express the chants and gesture were a joke between him and the fans, refraining from further explanation. “It was just a joke – they were playing with me and I did the same. Sorry, but there is no point in discussing a problem that does not exist” said Mollo.
The homophobic chants against Mollo come after the player posted a video on Instagram where he is kissed on the forehead by a man in bed. The post received a stream of homophobic abuse on the social media platform from fans of the club and was later deleted. The man on the video was later identified as Mollo’s father.
The RFU ruling announced on 28 July follows similar sanctions imposed on players for reacting to discrimination. The practice first came to light in 2014 when Christopher Samba and Guélor Kanga were handed two and three-match bans respectively for reacting to racist abuse and infamously in July 2015 Emmanuel Frimpong was banned for responding to racism by showing the middle finger.
Following the ruling, FC Zenit president Sergei Fursenko told Championat.com: “I think it’s fair. Where is injustice here? Do you remember when the disciplinary gave the same sanction to a Spartak player for a similar offence? There will be additional sanctions from the club to Mollo. We are also working with fans to prevent such things, we don’t deny our responsibility.”
At the start of the season, the RFU announced the implementation of a monitoring system to deal with incidents of discrimination in Russian football. It so far unknown if Mollo’s incident of homophobia was recorded by the new system and if homophobia will be among the forms of discrimination reported by it.