Russian soccer fans are trying their best to ruin 2012. Some of them ran amok in Poland at Euro 2012. Others used firecrackers to put a player in the hospital. There was also a paintball-gun attack on a team at practice.
Zenit St. Petersburg fans have taken the effort to a new level.
Landscrona, Zenit’s largest fan group, is discouraging the club from signing black, Latin American or gay players. On Monday, the group published a manifesto titled “Selection-12,” which said it hopes to push Zenit’s transfer policy in a more “regional” direction, according to Russia Today.
“For us, the absence of black players in Zenit is an important tradition and nothing more,” the manifesto reportedly states. “Due to its preservation, the club has their own recognizable face in the football world — along with a few other clubs, who still hold onto their identity. As the most northern club among the big European cities, we have never been mentally connected with Africa as well as South America, Australia and Oceania.”
Zenit, one of Russia’s biggest and richest clubs, is seeking to defend its domestic title and compete for European honors. It will need to add players to its squad, and Landscrona wants those reinforcements to come from the youth academy, Russia or from neighboring countries, the Guardian reports.
“We only want players from other brotherly Slav nations, such as Ukraine and Belarus as well as from the Baltic states and Scandinavia,” the manifesto states. “We have the same mentality and historical and cultural background as these nations.”
Landscrona goes on to say that it is not promoting a racist or nationalist ideology.
“No other parts of the world should be in priority,” it says. “And there is no racism or nationalism here. The club is just losing its regional identity, and we cease to associate ourselves with them.
“We go from the fact that Zenit is a symbol of our city. Therefore it should reflect its essence, represent its face. It’s principal for us that Zenit would keep its identity, not turning into an average European club with a standard set of foreigners.
“We stand against the representatives of sexual minorities playing for Zenit.”
“Selection 12” is said to represent the views of the majority of organized Zenit supporters. Participants in Zenit’s largest Internet forum have debated the manifesto, and 90 percent reportedly voted in its favor.
The statements above are merely excerpts of the manifesto, and the full document will be published later this week.
Zenit reportedly spent more than €80 million ($105 million) on signing Hulk and Axel Witsel during the summer transfer window. The club quickly moved to distance itself from the manifesto.
“Zenit football club have always been tolerant, bringing together players of different nationalities and faiths,” Zenit’s press service told R-Sport news agency. “Moreover, our club has millions of fans from all over the world. And Saint Petersburg is an open city which historically unites different cultures. We want to remind everybody that the players are invited to our team, not on the basis of ethnicity or race, but only because of their athletic abilities and achievements.”
While Gazaprom-backed Zenit is moving up in the world of soccer, Landscrona and its allies are making sure the club’s image lags behind its performances. FIFA and the rest of the world will be watching much more than the Russian national team ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup — which will take place on Russian soil.
Other stories that make 2012 a year to forget (or regret) in Russian soccer include: