Zenit fans 'living in another century' as Liverpool Euro rivals hit by backlash
Russian media were as shocked as any of their counterparts across Europe by the 'manifesto' of a Zenit St Petersburg fans' group.
Last week, an open letter called "Selection 12" was published on Zenit fans' biggest website 'Landscrona'. In a nutshell, this 'manifesto' urged the club not to sign black or gay players.
The demands shocked football across Europe and Kate Partridge, of RT, says journalists in Russia were just as outraged.
Partridge told tribalfootball.com: "The Russian media responded to and reported this publication in much the same negative way as it was in the west. There are minority groups of 'ultra' fans all across Europe and it's no surprise that such a set exists in a big city like St. Petersburg. Zenit had been the only top-flight Russian team without a black player until last summer's record signings of Brazil striker Hulk and Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel. But what was surprising was that such views have been publicly aired.
"The focus has moved on, publishing the group's subsequent attempts to explain their initial statements along with examples of global media and public reaction to prove how the rest of the world is essentially ridiculing these contradictory efforts. Some journalists, players and coaches past and present, and high profile figures are urging the football authorities to punish these fans, particularly as Russia prepares to host the World Cup in 2018."
After drawing Zenit in the Europa League, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was anxious to avoid becoming embroiled in the controversy. But former Blackburn Rovers captain Christopher Samba has been quick to get on the front foot.
As Partridge explains: "Anzhi's Christopher Samba is one notable foreign player who supports the idea of sanctions. The 28-year-old Congolese defender says this section of Zenit fans is 'living in another century'.
"The club was fined by the Russian Football Union after a match between the two sides in March 2011, where one fan offered Anzhi left-back Roberto Carlos a banana. Samba also had a banana thrown at him by a Lokomotiv fan, shortly after his move from Blackburn.
"Yet the defender does not advocate black players boycotting Zenit and thinks these views are only held by extremists. 'Boycotting, why?' said Samba. 'Because fans make a statement they don't want black players. No. Black players should fight for the good ones - not the idiots'."
Partridge adds: "Aside from the ethical and legal issues raised by Landscrona's stance, Samba also raises the practical effect of negative publicity on the standard of the game across the country. 'It's really sad. It's slowing down the process of Russian football being a better league,' he said. 'The fact that a lot of players are going to Russia should be promoted'."