By Saul Pope
Last weekend during a Moscow derby game, Dinamo’s defender Chris Samba was subject to monkey noise chants from a section of the Torpedo fans. This started early in the match; Samba complained to match officials about the abuse and eventually reacted by showing a middle finger to the Torpedo section. He didn’t come out for the second half. The official reason for this was injury – and indeed Samba didn’t feature for Dinamo in the club’s subsequent fixture – though it was widely reported in Russian media that he didn’t come out for the second half due to the racial abuse.
The Russian Football Union has since ordered Torpedo to close the fan sector of its current stadium for one match; for his gesture to the fans, Samba has been banned for two games.
And that’s where most UK reports about the incident stop – as if it’s not worth knowing what Russian fans think of the incident. Surely they all agree with the racist chants, don’t they? Don’t even bother checking…
As well as asking Russian fans on Twitter what they thought of the incident, I read through hundred of comments relating to the story on Russian websites Sport Express and Championat. Here are some of the answers that didn’t make it into any of the other British stories on the subject (most of which are translated from Russian):
The victim of racism is punished harder than his offenders. Bravo, Russian football.
Unfortunately many Russian football fans are racists. That’s true. But I also believe that if Samba ignored those idiots it would be better for him and for good fans. Also I’m pretty sure that there are more Russophobes in Europe than racists in Russia. I have experienced Russophobia many times myself. Media attracts lots of attention to this case. Pointless. Racists are happy and even angrier now. They reached their goal 😦
The punishment is very soft: Samba should have got a fine for his rudeness as well, and Torpedo should have been given three games without fans. Maybe then they’d start working with their scum.
In our Premier League there’s not one team with fans who behave OK in the stadiums…complete thugs, which is why I don’t take my child to football matches.
I don’t understand why they let Torpedo off so lightly.
Should have been minimum five games behind closed doors.
Racism is the scourge of modern Russia.
Racism is idiocy.
It’s all fantasy [that some try and justify what happened]. Monkey noises are monkey noises. Arguments to justify them are childish.
Racism is disgusting – we don’t live in the 19th century.
Say no to fascism!
How can we fight with race/nation hate whilst it’s profitable for the state itself? An aggressive nation is easier to control – it doesn’t comprehend as much.
[Commenting on British reports] English media with anti-Russian rhetoric – we’re ‘Russian fascists’ like always, everything against us.
It’s quite easy to clean some aspects of football up – don’t let drunk people into the stadiums. Then nobody will be bold enough to cause scandals. This drunken layer will be replaced by families, like in England. More people will go to matches, and clubs will earn more.
These are not all the comments, of course, but represent a fair mix. Many were more disparaging, with typical comments saying:
- Samba’s only come to Russia to make money when he could have played on in England (look at how he left Anzhi Makhachkala)
- Samba and the other players offended by stupid chants should act as tough as they look and brush them off
- There are double standards in place; if offensive noises were directed at a white player no punishments would be handed out
- Black players, supported by the West, are using this chanting as a form of blackmail
There were also out and out offensive racist comments, but – compared to what I might have expected to see a decade ago – these were very limited in number. One other thing that stands out is there being no reference to far right groups or slogans in the comments; these were very noticeable even a few years ago when racist incidents occurred.
In times when none of the stories coming out of the UK about Russia are positive, it’s important to note that not all voices in that country are the same. Sure, there are nasty and misguided comments about Chris Samba and what’s happened, but there are also numerous anti-racist voices. There are many who are sick of what goes on in stadiums and want better so they can go to games; who feel the authorities let the clubs off lightly; who feel the victims of racism themselves as their country’s people are tarred with one brush by others.
Perhaps the final words should rest with another African footballer in Russia, Kuban’s Ibrahima Balde: “If we think footballers should be a good examples then fans should also be an example. Football isn’t a place for conflict…Such abuse from crowds has always been there: it’s not news, and it doesn’t relate just to one country. I can understand fans who say things against the opposition’s footballers, but I have never been able to understand people who use racism as a basis for this.”
There’s just one Russia comment at the end of this story:
Good man. Well said.
On the same theme: