The World’s football governing body FIFA has charged World Cup host Russia for fan racism on Tuesday, less than two months before the commencement of the tournament. Reports suggested that monkey chants were aimed at black French players including Paul Pogba in the course of France’s 3:1 victory over Russia in last month’s friendly in St. Petersburg.
“Disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the Russian Football Union for this incident,” Fifa said. The RFU disclosed that it is cooperating with the Fifa investigation.
“A request has been made to the Interior Ministry to identify several persons who were involved in these incidents,” Alex Smertin, the RFU anti-discrimination officer was quoted as saying on Monday (Tuesday NZT) by the Tass news agency. “If these people’s guilt is proven, then there’s a high likelihood they won’t be allowed to attend World Cup and Russian league games.”
Russia had previously received charges on racist behavior being perpetrated by its fans in the last two European Championships, and the RFU was fined on both occasions. This is the third racism incident at the St Petersburg Stadium this season, with Zenit St.Petersburg facing two UEFA charges for racism by its fans in Europa League fixtures.
Zenit fans reportedly flew a banner praising war criminal Ratko Mladic in the course of a game against a Macedonian club in November, and have also been accused of using a racially charged term to mock a black player in a game against Bundesliga side RB Leipzig. The second case has been scheduled to be heard by UEFA on May 31, two weeks before the commencement of the Russia 2018 World Cup.