Russian club Zenit St. Petersberg have an all-white XI and a percentage of their fans would like it to stay that way. Reuters reports a supporter’s group is pressuring the club to refrain from signing or purchasing black or gay players.
“We’re not racists but we see the absence of black players at Zenit as an important tradition,” Zenit fan club Landscrona said in a letter, called the “Selection 12 manifesto”, posted on its website on Monday. “It would allow Zenit to maintain the national identity of the club, which is the symbol of St Petersburg.”
Zenit have been the only top club in Russia to have never signed an African player while the northern city of St Petersburg is known to have a strong right-wing nationalist influence.
The fans said they want more home-grown or European players in the team. “We only want players from other brotherly Slav nations, such as Ukraine and Belarus as well as from the Baltic states and Scandinavia. We have the same mentality and historical and cultural background as these nations,” the letter said.
They also expressed their opposition to having “sexual minorities” in the team. Several prominent black players have turned down lucrative offers from the wealthy club over the past 12 months after receiving death threats from Zenit fans. A Zenit spokesman said on Monday the club would not comment on the fans’ letter.