18 Dec 2012

Only white players wanted by fans at Russian club

1:23 pm on 18 December 2012

Fans at Zenit Saint Petersburg, one of the biggest football clubs in Russia, have demanded that the side be made up of only white, heterosexual players.

A manifesto has been issued calling for the club not to buy black or gay players.

Zenit was the only top Russian club to never sign a black player until this season when it acquired two.

We are not racists and for us the lack of black players at Zenit is just an important tradition, underlining the identity of the club" said the manifesto.

It also said that "we are against representatives of sexual minorities playing for Zenit," who are currently third in the Russian Premier League.

Zenit, which is owned by Gazprom responded by telling the Interfax news agency that the club's players "join our team not because of their nationality and skin colour" and urged fans to be tolerant.

Brazilian striker Hulk, 26, joined the team in September this year on a reported transfer fee of 60 million euros from Porto.

His salary of $US6.5 million per year sparked a rebellion among the Russian players.

The current team's players come from Belgium, Portugal, Belarus, Italy, Slovakia, Denmark, Montenegro and Serbia as well as Russia.

In November, the team had to pay a $US19,000 fine in November after fans threw a firecracker that injured Dynamo Moscow's goalkeeper, forcing the match to be abandoned.

AFP reports some Russian fan groups have close links with nationalist movements and display racist banners, Monkey chants at matches are common.