Russian Soccer Fans Demand All-White Team

Zenit St. Petersburg coach slams 'stupidity'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2012 1:19 AM CST
Zenit's fans march prior before a game earlier this year.   (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, file)
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(Newser) – To the disgust of soccer authorities, fans of one of Russia's biggest teams are demanding the club exclude non-white and gay players. Zenit St. Petersburg's largest supporters' group issued an open letter to the team saying black players were "forced down Zenit's throat" and gay players are "unworthy of our great city," the BBC reports. The team, winners of the Russian Premier League last year, was the only one in the league without a black player before two signings earlier this year.

Zenit's head coach, an Italian, described the fans' letter as "stupidity" and pledged to support efforts to tackle racism, reports the Guardian. "Tolerance for me is most of all the ability to understand and accept differences," he said, adding "I can personally assure you that I will do everything I can to help those who seek to explain to people what tolerance is, and the need to respect other cultures and traditions." The chief of Russia's soccer players and coaches union suggested that foreign players boycott the league until authorities get serious about addressing the racism issue. (Read more Russia stories.)

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