Russian League opener marked by racism as beauty pageant shows influence of far-right
The Russian Premier League opening game between Spartak Moscow and Ufa on Friday (17 July) was marked by the controversial expulsion of Ufa midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong after he reacted to racial abuse.
Two days on, a new row over discrimination emerged as a Russian Premier League beauty pageant highlighted the extent of far-right involvement in fan groups.
A video of the Frimpong incident shows monkey chants being directed at the Ghanaian midfielder around the 29th minute of the match, to which Frimpong reacted by raising his middle finger towards his abusers. Match officials did not act upon the racial slurs but the player was sent-off for reacting to the abuse.
In a post match interview Frimpong said: “When the match was stopped, the fans started shouting 'monkey' at me. Then the monkey chants started.
"I don't have any problems with the Spartak fans in general. I just did not keep my cool, I showed my emotions and it was my mistake. I want to say sorry for what I did,"
Ufa general director Shamil Gazizov said his club would not be calling for Spartak to be punished, describing it as an "unfortunate incident".
"There were people who could have shouted things. These are emotions, which go away after the game. We are partners with the red and whites and are on good terms," he said.
"What Frimpong did was wrong. Sometimes you even have to hold back the tears and just put up with it."
In a series of tweets Frimpong later said: “Want to apologise for the sending off after being provoked shouldn’t have happened but also am a human being shouldn’t be racially abused for the game that I love.
"We are going to hold a WC here"
“Fantastic result to draw with Spartak proud of team and I’m going to serve a sentence for being abused … and yet we going to hold a World Cup in this country where African[s] will have to come play football.
“I must stressed not all Spartak fans done that only one person had to ruin it Spartak fans were brilliant and created a good atmosphere shame one person ruin it.”
Russian FA promise investigation
Russian Sports Minister and FIFA Executive Committee member Vitaly Mutko told the TASS news agency: "I do not think that what surrounds this episode should become inflated into a big scandal."
However, RFU general secretary Anatoly Vorobyov confirmed his organisation would investigate the matter and hoped clubs would implement measures to prevent such incidents occurring again.
"The Russian Football Union disciplinary committee will look into the situation and what happened,
"Racism is a disgusting thing, which we have not been able to fully stamp out. The virus that is racism is worse than the virus that is Ebola. Unfortunately it seems that we are unable to find a remedy for it.
"The clubs should introduce more effective scheme to work with the supporters surrounding this issue. The fight against racism should be a priority for work carried out by the RFU."
Condemnation from Ghana
Following the incident the Ghana Football Association (GFA) called on football authorities with remit to act on Frimpong’s incident to send a strong message against the perpetrators.
In a statement they said: "While we do not condone Frimpong's reaction to the racist abuse he suffered, it beats our imagination that his club Ufa criticised the Ghanaian player without condemning the Spartak Moscow supporters who provoked him with this despicable racist abuse,"
The incident came as Russia prepares to host the preliminary draw for the 2018 World Cup on July 25.
Russian Football beauty pageant hit by Nazi controversy
Days after the Russian Premier League incident, Russian football was hit by a new controversy, this time regarding a Russian Premier League beauty pageant.
Every year the Russian Premier League (RPL) organises a beauty pageant for female fans of the sixteen clubs in the league. Fans of the different clubs select between several female supporters, which will compete for the title of ‘Miss RFPL'.
This year CSKA Moscow representative Olga Kuzkova won the Miss Charm title, but reports have linked Kuzkova to far-right groups.
On Kuzkova’s VK page she has shared pictures of herself wearing a t-shirt with Nazi symbols on it, while in another picture she is seen sieg heiling in front of the numbers 14/88 painted on a wall. Another picture reveals that these numbers are also tattooed on Kuzkova’s husband’s legs.
This was not the first time the pageant was hit by scandals involving Russia’s far right. In 2012 Anna Kulikova won the Miss Spartaktitle, a contest hosted by Spartak Moscow and the ultra-group Fratria. After receiving her prize, Kulikova was photographed wearing a White Power T-shirt, with former Russian national team player and Spartak assistant Andrei Tikhonov.
Piara Powar, the Fare Executive Director said: “Both the racist chants against Frimpong and the beauty pageant controversy come as a reminder that the Russian Football authorities need to do more. An acceptable long term reaction can only come through the implementation of an action plan covering all elements of racism, discrimination and far-right involvement.
“The World Cup is a global event, hosting it means a global spotlight is focused on whoever wins the right. And Russia will continue to face questions over these issues around the world until we see some real progress.
"The discourse around the Frimpong incident shows just how far we have have to go, the blame is placed on the victim and his reaction not the perpetrators of the offence. The same happened last season with incidents involving Samba and Hulk. Meanwhile the referee failed to enforce the FIFA regulations for referees."
Fare and SOVA 'Time for action’ study highlighting scale of racism and xenophobia in Russia
First of want to apologize for the sending off after being provoked shouldn't have happened but also am a human being shouldn't be ...
— I AM FRIMPONG (@IAMFRIMPONG26) July 17, 2015
Racially abused for the game that I love fantastic result to draw with Spartak proud of team and I'm going to serve a sentence for being ... — I AM FRIMPONG (@IAMFRIMPONG26) July 17, 2015
Abused..and yet we going to hold a World Cup in this country where African will have to come play football I must stressed not all Spartak
— I AM FRIMPONG (@IAMFRIMPONG26) July 17, 2015
Fans done that only one person had to ruin it Spartak fans were brilliant and created a good atmosphere shame oneperson ruin it we live on.. — I AM FRIMPONG (@IAMFRIMPONG26) July 17, 2015
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