Recently the St. Petersburg football website http://football-spb.ru/ used its Twitter feed to pose the following question to its followers: How would you react to a dark-skinned footballer playing for Zenit St. Petersburg?
All of the answers were then retweeted, and I have translated these below. I have taken out names – to focus on the replies themselves – though judging by the profile pictures the respondents were both male and female and of various ages. I haven’t included answers that veered away from the original question, and have numbered responses in the order they appeared to make them easier to follow.
With so much in the UK media about Russian football and racism at present, perhaps one of the best lines of enquiry that can be taken as to the seriousness of the problem is to read the words of the Russian fans themselves:
@footballpiter How would you react to a dark-skinned footballer playing for Zenit?
1) There’s no black in Zenit’s colours – therefore nothing to discuss.
2) Negatively – there’s no black in Zenit’s colours. There have never been black players at Zenit, and we shouldn’t break this tradition))
3) Only positively – the colour of skin doesn’t matter if a player can strengthen a team’s game.
4) Only positively – if he strengthens the team then why not?
5) If he’s an excellent footballer who behaves well and doesn’t complain about racism to all and sundry, and if he’ll fly the flag for Zenit – then YES!
6) What’s this? Provocation?
7) It’s important to change things that will lead to improvements. Teams without athletic black players haven’t won trophies for a long time.
8) Negatively)) Africa shouldn’t play at Zenit.
9) Yes, yes, yes. We should buy Toure:)
10) Doesn’t matter what colour if you’re talking about a genuine world-class star.
11) We have enough of them in our championship already!
12) I’ve got nothing against them, but I don’t want any blacks at Zenit!
13) Totally against this – we haven’t had any and shouldn’t have any.
14) If he plays like Pele then I’m totally for it!
15) Nothing personal, but we don’t need black players at Zenit.
16) Would be in favour.
Initial feelings – a depressingly sizeable number with a negative reaction, and for the usual (in my experience) spurious reasons; though some western media outlets might take note of the number of Zenit fans that don’t share this view….
Saul Pope is a blogger on Russian and Ukrainian football and contributor to ‘When Saturday Comes’ magazine. He can be followed on Twitter: @saulpope
Football Petersburg has news about the city’s football scene (in Russian) – and clearly likes to challenge its readership with a question or two…
Another post by me on the topic: Russian fans hold the key to eradicating racism in their stadiums.