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Radio Sandwell Sport

Zenit St Petersburg fans petition club to sack black players

2012-12-18 08:58:06

Hulk

A group of Zenit St Petersburg supporters, who could face Premier League opposition in the Europa League in February, have called for all non-European and "sexual minorities" to be barred from playing for the club.

The Russian club's manager, Luciano Spalletti, has distanced himself from the group, who published an open letter on its website called "Selection Manifesto 12" in which it demanded certain "principles for selection" and preferred criteria for future signings.

Zenit are the only top flight Russian club to have never signed an African player, although Spalletti quickly expressed his support for multi-racial teams.

"We object to representatives of sexual minorities playing for Zenit," said the letter published on Landscrona.ru.

"We are not racists and for us, the lack of black players at Zenit is only an important tradition, which emphasises the identity of the club and nothing more.

"Zenit has its own identity in the world of football, along with a number of football clubs that have retained their own identity.

"As the most northern club of the major European cities, we have never been associated with Africa, South America or Australia and Oceania.

"We have absolutely nothing against the people of these and any other continent. But now black players are being imposed on Zenit almost by force."

The letter went on to say they would only accept players from other Slav nations like Ukraine and Belarus, as well as those from the Baltic states and Scandinavia.

Although he did not make any reference to the letter, Spalletti responded with a swift rejection of their proposals on the club's official website.

"Tolerance for me is the ability to understand and accept differences," he said. "Furthermore, being tolerant means that you fight against any kind of stupidity.

"I can personally assure you that I will do everything I can to help those who seek to explain what tolerance is, and the need to respect other cultures and traditions.

"The team has gathered players from different countries and ethnic groups who work together to achieve a common goal. Their combined efforts bring tangible results."

In 2008 former manager Dick Advocaat admitted that signing black players was an option not available to him due to the fierce opposition he would face from Zenit fans.

"I would be happy to sign anyone, but the fans don't like black players," said the former Holland coach. "Quite honestly, I do not understand how they could pay so much attention to skin colour."

St Petersburg is one of the host cities for the 2018 World Cup.

Source: telegraph.co.uk

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