BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – Brazilian striker Givanildo Vieira de Souza has spoken out against the homophobic and racist views of his Russian soccer club's fans more than three months after they released a manifesto saying they wanted only white, straight players on the team.
"I think that these people, these fans, do not think about culture," the Zenit St Petersburg player, also known as Hulk, says in an interview with R-Sport. "I respect fans of any skin colour and any sexual orientation. The people who are talking about dark-skinned people and gays are just not thinking."
"We are against the inclusion of representatives of sexual minorities
in the Zenit team," a fan-club manifesto says. "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 further states. "We want players closer to
our soul and mentality to play for Zenit."
The team's Italian head coach, Luciano Spalletti, issued a statement in response to the fan manifesto,
saying, "Tolerance for me is most of all the ability to understand and
According to R-Sport, Zenit has been criticized as the only top Russian club never to have fielded a black player, but the club has dismissed claims that it is a policy against doing so. Hulk and another player, Axel Witsel, both described as mixed-race, signed with Zenit last year.
St Petersburg is among a number of Russian cities and regions to pass anti-gay
gag laws banning so-called propaganda of homosexuality among minors.
Landing image: peoples.ru/sport/football