Sports & Recreation
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St Petersburg: Soccer club fans want white, straight players only

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — “We are against the inclusion of representatives of sexual minorities in the Zenit team,” a fan club manifesto says, adding that “the absence of black players in the Zenit lineup is an important tradition that underlines the identity of the club, and nothing more,” according to a report in The Moscow News.

"We as the most northern club of the big European cities have never shared the mentality of Africa, or South America or Australia and Oceania,” the manifesto reportedly states. “We want players closer to our soul and mentality to play for Zenit."

The UK’s Daily Mail also reports that up until this summer, Zenit was “the only top-flight Russian team without a black player.” The report says Russia is struggling to deal with racism and violence at its stadiums as it gears up to host the 2018 World Cup.

A number of black players have called out Zenit fans as “particularly racist,” the Mail says.

The team’s Italian head coach, Luciano Spalletti, issued a statement saying, “tolerance for me is most of all the ability to understand and accept differences,” Gay Star News reports.

St Petersburg is one of nine Russian cities and regions to pass anti-gay gag laws banning so-called propaganda of homosexuality among minors. Russia’s State Duma, which was originally scheduled to begin debate on a nationwide version of the gag laws Dec 19, has postponed the bill’s first reading until late January.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently said he wasn’t aware of his United Russia party’s plans regarding the bill, saying legislation like that wasn’t needed. “Probably this issue does not concern too many people in the country, and it’s not discussed at all levels,” Gay Star News quotes him as saying.

Landing image: Lonely Planet

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