The Russian state-owned agency Sputnik report is a classic example of disinformation. The statement in the headline “No Racism in Russia” is not what the football player quoted in the report said. In fact, he said: “I have never had such an experience.” The headline misleadingly gives the impression that the statement was made by a Chinese person, when in reality it was made by Odil Akhmedov, an ethnic Uzbek from Uzbekistan, a Central Asian nation that was part of the Soviet Union.
Sputnik issued the report as Russia, which is set to host the 2018 soccer World Cup, faces racism charges made by FIFA, the international soccer governing body.
FIFA imposed disciplinary charges on Russia after fans in St. Petersburg responded to France’s 3-1 victory in a friendly match against Russia with monkey chants aimed at French players Ousmane Dembele and Paul Pogba.
Russian fans were accused of racist behavior during the last two European Championships. In both instances, the Russian Football Union paid a fine.
Europe’s anti-discrimination watchdog Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) reported 89 racist and far-right incidents at Russian games in the 2016 - 2017 season alone.
Fans of the Russian soccer team Zenit St. Petersburg, whose city will host the 2018 World Cup semifinal, have been accused of racism on three separate occasions in recent years, including an episode during a game against Leipzig in March 2018 in which fans were accused of racist behavior and throwing objects.
Zenit has an official fan club, called Landcrona, which in 2012 published a manifesto declaring who should and who should not be allowed to play for Zenit. Called “The Principles of Selection,” this manifesto states: “We are not racists, and for us the absence of the black skinned players in Zenit is merely an important tradition that highlights the identity of our club.”
The only non-white player ever hired by Zenit – Hulk, a Brazilian forward -- was removed from the team’s World Cup draw after he publicly complained about “everyday” racism in Russian football.
Zenit is not the only Russian soccer club to have been charged with racism. Other major clubs have their own history of racist behavior, including Moscow’s Spartak and the Russian Army’s team, TSKA.