That a black player has been racially abused at a recent Russian league match is not going to surprise many fans. In the below clip, Dinamo Moscow (and former Blackburn and QPR) defender Chris Samba is subjected to monkey chants from Spartak Moscow fans.
These can be heard, admittedly not too clearly, but were audible to both Samba and the match commentator – who criticises the Spartak fans’ behaviour.
Samba sarcastically claps the crowd and gives them a thumbs-up – which is also to the distaste of the commentator. ‘That’s not good,’ he says, ‘both that the Spartak fans behaved as they did towards Samba, and that he reacted to it.’
Samba is moving away from the fans when he gestures to them and is not acting aggressively, but this contained and measured reaction to racist abuse is apparently too much. Presumably the commentator would rather Samba did absolutely nothing – then he could have avoided referring to it at all. The Russian sports press may feel the same – in match reports about the game newspapers refer to Samba’s performance but not this specific incident.
Racism at Russian football matches is, I think, decreasing – I recently attended two recent games in Russia where black players featured for the away teams, but no abuse was directed at these players. No journalist I have had contact with in the country has anything but contempt for racists – there are occasional pieces speaking out against this, and some commentators do the same. Take, for example, this response to Roberto Carlos having a banana thrown at him during another Russian league match:
Carlos himself left the pitch following the incident, and can be heard saying ‘two times’ to the crowd as one of his teammates appears to ask the offender ‘why?’. The commentator asks rhetorically when such abuse will stop, and addresses all Russian fans when talking of the need for racism to be stamped out.
But we need to go beyond a situation where one broadcaster does this but another equates the seriousness of a monkey chant to a player clapping sarcastically at the crowd. Without a drip-drip of contempt for racism – every incident being highlighted and criticised by journalists and broadcasters – we may not get beyond the current position where the racists just about keep quiet for the international and European matches but let loose at league games, whilst bystanders tut-tut and wonder how much of a fine players reacting to abuse will receive.
Saul Pope is a blogger on Russian and Ukrainian football and contributor to ‘When Saturday Comes’ magazine. He can be followed on Twitter: @saulpope
My thanks to Russian football fan Serge (@gentoosiast) for pointing me in the direction of this incident.
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