CSKA Moscow’s racism problems well covered by UK media; Dnipro’s more or less ignored…

By Saul Pope

The British media were quick to highlight the punishment handed out to CSKA Moscow by UEFA for racist behaviour at a Champions League match against AS Roma. I won’t dwell on the details as they can be found elsewhere, but it is really important they received wide coverage.

Interesting, then, that the punishment given to Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk by UEFA on the same day received no attention from mainstream UK media:

Incidents: Racist behaviour – Art. 14 UEFA Disciplinary Regulations; Illicit banner – Art. 16 (2) DR; Setting off of fireworks – Art. 16 (2) DR; Use of laser pointer – Art. 16 (2) DR Sanction: The UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body has ordered the partial closure of FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk Stadium during the next (1) UEFA competition match in which FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk would play as the host club, and, in particular, the sector B 41 of the stadium. The Ukrainian team has also been ordered to implement the following directive in the next UEFA match which the club will play as the host team: to display a banner with the wording “No to Racism”, with the UEFA logo on it. In addition, FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk has been fined €24,000.

Though it’s difficult to find English language information about the incidents, this Ukrainian site covers it well – the pictures on the site feature Dnipro fans wearing neo-Nazi t-shirts and a Ukrainian flag with the logo of the far-right Azov Battalion on it. You all know what a Nazi salute looks like, but if you want to see a small(ish) number of Dnepr fans doing one then click on the video too.

And, just like CSKA, this is not the first time Dnipro fans have committed racist acts – the disturbing picture from this site comes from a Europa League game against Aberdeen in 2007.

@farenet Tweeted details of the recent punishment, but no mainstream source covered the story. In fact, the BBC has nothing on them at all.

So why the lack of coverage? Maybe all the attention on CSKA is because they are due to play Manchester City in the Champions League.

Then again, the Guardian, the BBC and others felt it was important to cover the racial abuse Chris Samba recently suffered playing in a domestic Russian game.

Maybe that’s because he’s someone our media feel their readers can relate to. But that would mean racism is only worth reporting when it affects someone we know – which I’m sure nobody agrees with.

Maybe, heaven forfend, it’s been ignored because – as one commentator suggested to me – ‘Ukraine is now Britain’s friend’ and ‘damning Russia more fits the agenda.’ Hmm…there was certainly interest in the racism issue and Ukraine pre Euro 2012.

Surely it’s not because of that…is it?

PS – even if the issue had been covered, it’s unlikely the UK media would have given much attention to all the non-racist fans in Ukraine. Though Russian fans have recently been involved in racist incidents, stories on them tend not to get as far as speaking to those who are against these – and they also ignore the work of groups such as CSKA Against Racism.

Saul Pope is a Russian / Ukrainian football blogger and contributor to When Saturday Comes magazine. He can be followed on Twitter here.

On the same theme:

Chris Samba racially abused at a Russian league match, but…

A Brazilian player for the Russian national team? The fans’ views

Black players at Zenit St. Petersburg? The fans’ views

Russian fans hold the key to eradicating racism in their stadiums



Hinckley United’s last stand: vs Chesham United, 5th October 2013

A year since this day…great to see Hinckley has a football team once more though…

Saul's (mostly) football blog

It was never going to be an evenly-matched game. The home side’s fans, hoping for the play-offs as minimum this season, said their biggest concern was local rivals Hemel Hempstead beating them to the title. The visitors’ fans, just a few years ago a hair’s breadth from promotion to the Conference, hoped only to survive the season after years of financial problems. The club hadn’t hired a bus for the players to travel to the game, nearly a 200-mile round trip.

And it wasn’t a close match. Hinckley applied pressure for the first fifteen minutes, but Chesham’s two banks of four were effective. A soft penalty for the home side set things on the way in the first half, and Chesham ran out 3-0 winners. To the travelling Hinckley supporters, the score meant little but the game an awful lot. At 10.30am on Monday 7th October 2013 the club…

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Chris Samba racially abused again at a Russian league match, but…

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.

Alnik 2013

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!

Anonymous User

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.



Saul Pope is a Russian / Ukrainian football blogger and contributor to When Saturday Comes magazine. He can be followed on Twitter.

On the same theme:

Russian football commentator criticises Chris Samba for reacting to racist abuse

Russian fans hold the key to eradicating racism in the country’s stadiums

A Brazilian-born player for the Russian national team? The fans’ views 

Black players at Zenit St. Petersburg? Fan views

Picture: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christopher_Samba_2014.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Christopher_Samba_2014.jpg


A political career for Ukraine goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy?

It seems an odd time for Andriy Shevchenko to decide he’s no longer interested in politics – or perhaps it’s exactly the right time for a celebrity with no experience to steer clear of the turmoil in Ukraine.

He’s not alone amongst footballers in saying little about what’s happened. Some wish Ukraine captain and former Bayern Munich midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk would speak out: one blogger has written an imaginary (and probably fanciful) open letter from him, in which he talks of dark outside forces and calls for unity between Ukraine and Russia. That Tymoschuk currently plays for Zenit St. Petersburg – and is one of the club’s modern era legends – perhaps explains his reluctance to express his feelings.

However, another prominent player has been more outspoken. Dinamo Kyiv goalkeeper and journalism graduate Oleksandr Shovkovskiy – who at 39 has played in every single Ukraine championship since independence – has a reputation for eloquence and intelligence. Describing himself as “neither a macho nor a playboy”, he has read Dostoyevsky and Bulgakov and quotes postmodernist writer Viktor Pelevin in talking of his disdain for television.

When the Maidan protests began last year, he used his Facebook page to comment: “I’m not a politician but I’m a citizen. My civil duty is to not be indifferent to the lack of proper rule by the powers that be!” Shovkovsky said he would be attending the protests, and later used Facebook to offer support to an injured protestor. Following the impeachment of President Yanukovych, he raised the question of whether deputies in Ukraine’s parliament should lose their immunity to prosecution.

As things progressed he continued to comment:

“Unity is one of the most important factors…West, East, North, South…some can speak Russian, some Ukrainian. We can argue and have different political views, but we can’t deny that we live under one roof, such a hospitable and welcoming state as Ukraine.”

“I’m always in favour of dialogue, but the will of emotion shouldn’t take over. People here are being strongly emotionally affected by the comments of other people.”

“I won’t be going to Crimea this summer if it’s under the control of Russia. Having served in the army, I could be conscripted. Will I go to the front line if the situation arises? If my country orders me – yes!”

Shovkovskiy writes in Russian, and has friends in the country:

“My Russian friends haven’t reacted badly [to what I’ve said about the political situation], probably because they’re well mannered and educated people. They understand well that we’re being shown a distorted picture of events.”

Over the past year he has been regularly asked about a career in politics. He has remained coy, but hasn’t hidden the fact he has been approached. When he finishes his career, he will surely have a fuller role to play in shaping Ukraine’s future. He is intelligent, but unlike some sporting figures only comments on matters when he feels the need – which makes what he says even more valuable.

Hopefully it isn’t too late for an intelligent, well-liked, unifying figure to have an impact on today’s Ukraine.


Saul Pope is a Russian/Ukrainian football blogger and contributor to When Saturday Comes magazine. He can be followed on Twitter here.

Also on the theme:

Euromaidan – the views of a Kyiv-based footballer

Why a joint Russian-Ukrainian league is a bad idea

FC Sochi could resign from football league amidst claims they were forced to sign a player

Thanks to the Winter Olympics most people remember the Russian city of Sochi and its magnificent Fisht Stadium, currently being converted into a venue for the 2018 World Cup. It will be the stadium for Sochi’s home football team too – the only problem is that the city is on its third post-Soviet team, and may be about to lose that as well.

FC Sochi’s Director Evgeniy Mukhin recently got in touch with OneDivision.Ru to make some surprising claims about problems his club was having with a Russian football official. Last season, when the newly-formed side was playing in the amateur fourth tier, Mukhin was called by the Professional Football League (the Russian third tier) General Director Nikolay Akelkin. ‘He asked us to employ his brother Stepan Akelkin,’ Mukhin recalled to OneDivision, ‘explaining that then we wouldn’t have problems getting into the PFL. When I asked what problems we could have if we won the league [and so by right got promoted to the PFL], I was told ‘you’ll see”.

Stepan was employed by FC Sochi, but didn’t suit the club either as a player or trainer. ‘We even tried him as a fitness coach’, recalls Mukhin, ‘though he didn’t have any qualifications, nor knowledge or experience. There was nothing left to do but pay him literally for nothing.’

This was only the start of the problems. Having won the league, the club completed the paperwork to register for the PFL South but was told they’d only be allowed into the division if clubs from Crimea were (which eventually happened). Then, after refusing Stepan more money, the club discovered its stadium wasn’t going to be certified by the relevant bodies for home matches. A request from Stepan for a bonus for the entire team followed: when refused, further threats came – and on transfer deadline day the club was only able to register one of six planned signings.

Stepan Akelkin, it seems, has form. He was previously in the squad of another Sochi club whose manager was told he should remain in the squad – even though he told the club management he didn’t want the player. Tweeting the OneDivision story, football agent and former player Roman Oreschuk wrote ‘I know this Stepan very well ))))’.

So what now for FC Sochi? A club made up 100% of local footballers may be forced to quit the league unless it can start using its stadium – which is already cleared for use by various other sports’ teams, including Russia’s Paralympic football team. The frustration in Mukhin’s voice is clear: ‘These people aren’t developing football but instead blackmail people – some for their father, some for their brother, some for unknown people,’ he told OneDivision. ‘There’s no discussion about the development of football at the PFL at the moment…Bureaucracy in football wins again.’

Saul Pope is a Russian/Ukrainian football blogger and contributor to When Saturday Comes magazine. He can be followed on Twitter here.

On the same topic:

How Russia’s World Cup Stadiums are shaping up

FC Saturn disappear

FC Moscow disappear

Moscow clubs run out of pitches to play on