Russian football chiefs said on Thursday they will probe apparent monkey chants directed against Cape Verdean midfielder Nuno Roch during a league cup semi-final this week. Official 2018 FIFA World Cup match-ball The incident comes less than two months before Russia hosts the World Cup and is sure to fuel fears of racism marring the tournament.
Wednesday’s game in Moscow culminated with a penalty shootout between hosts Spartak and the small Russian Premier League side Tosno. Roch scored the winning kick for Tosno before running past Spartak supporters while celebrating the upset.
Footage of the episode posted on the Championat.ru sports site showed the 26-year-old cupping his hand to his ear as what sounded like a chorus of ape noises rang down from the crowd. “We will examine the cup matches after next weekend’s round of league games,” the Russian Football Union’s disciplinary committee chief Artur Grigoryants said.
“As for the racist chants during the Spartak-Tosno match — I have nothing to say about it yet,” he was quoted as saying by Livesport.ru. “We have to study the match material first.” The investigation comes with concern about racial abuse in Russia already running high after a spate of recent incidents.
The world football governing body FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Russia over monkey chants heard at a World Cup warmup against France last month. Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba and Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele were allegedly targeted during the match in Saint Petersburg. Racism has been plaguing Russian football since clubs began purchasing foreign players after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
The Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) anti-discrimination network reported 89 racist and far-right incidents at Russian games in the 2016/17 season. The number was about the same as that recorded in the preceding three seasons — a sign that Russia’s campaign to clean up its game has not had the desired effect.
The World Cup final will be played on July 15 in Moscow while Saint Petersburg will host one of the semi-finals. Both cities are home to large groups of hardcore nationalist supporters and have witnessed numerous ugly episodes during games. Spartak have already been fined for monkey chants and other racial abuse heard after its July 2017 Supercup victory against city rivals Lokomotiv.
They were was penalised a second time for what Grigoryants had said were “50 seconds of chanting” hurled at Lokomotiv’s Brazilian goalkeeper Guilherme Marinato during a league game in March. Spartak were hit by more controversy when centre-back Georgi Dzhikiya used the team’s official Twitter account in January to send out a message likening its three Brazilian players to “chocolates”. Roch played in Portugal and Romania before joining Tosno last year.