World Cup racism fears: French players allegedly abused in Russia
Fifa investigates claims that monkey chants were heard at the Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg
Fifa is investigating claims that French players were subjected to racist abuse during their 3-1 win against Russia in St Petersburg on Tuesday night.
Photographers covering the game reported hearing monkey chants aimed at Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele and N’Golo Kante of Chelsea, while there were also allegations that similar abuse was directed towards Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.
“Fifa is collecting the different match reports and potential evidence in regards to the discriminatory incident reported in the media, including the one from the Football Against Racism in Europe [Fare] observer who was present at the game,” Fifa said in a statement.
Fare collects data on discrimination in football across the continent and, according to BBC Sport, last season monitored nearly 90 incidents of racism in the Russian league.
Piara Powar, head of the organisation, told the BBC that the latest allegations are worrying. “For us, the key issue is that the match took place at a stadium that will host one of the biggest games during the World Cup, a semi-final will be there, plus many group games,” he said.
“In many ways this match was a test of the protocols that the Russian FA has put in place, it was a match governed by the Russian FA. This is a cause for concern, just over two months before the tournament, with no response from the stadium authorities after what looked to be a major incident.”
Although there has been no reaction from the players, French Sports Minister Laura Flessel-Colovic - a two-time Olympic fencing champion - expressed her dismay on Twitter: “Racism has no place on soccer fields. We must act together at the European and international level to stop this intolerable behaviour.”
The latest allegations will prove embarrassing for Russia, who have long struggled with racism in its football stadiums. Last week Uefa started disciplinary proceedings against Zenit St Petersburg for racist chants during a Europa League match against RB Leipzig, and in 2017 the same club was punished after fans paraded a banner praising former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic, a convicted war criminal, during a Europa League tie.
“If this information is confirmed, then of course we will study both the video replay and everything else that happened around the match,” said Vladimir Markin, head of the Russian Football Union’s security committee.
The alleged incidents took place at the Krestovsky Stadium, which will host several matches in June as well as the World Cup’s first semi-final, on 10 July.
“In light of this alleged incident, the French Football Federation must take strong action in raising this issue with Fifa and other football authorities, including the Fare network,” said Lord Herman Ouseley, chair of Kick It Out, Britain’s leading anti-racism football organisation.
“The football authorities must understand that a lack of effective action against the issue of racism in Russian football will likely result in the further abuse of black players in matches involving the country.”