Start of the Russian football season marred by discrimination19 July 2017


The Russian football season opening match, the Super Cup between the Russian Premier League winners Spartak Moscow and cup holders Lokomotiv Moscow on 14 July produced shocking footage of Spartak Moscow fans chanting racist abuse at Lokomotiv player Guilherme Marinato.

Brazilian-born Lokomotiv goalkeeper Guilherme who received Russian citizenship in 2015 and has since been called up to the Russian national team is considered one of the best players in Russia. Thousands of Spartak fans chanted ‘Why the f@ck does the Russian national team need a monkey’ towards the goalkeeper.

The footage available shows almost the entire Spartak stand chanting racist abuse with no reaction from the referee or other match officials.

Guilherme spoke to Brazilian ESPN in February 2016 describing racism in Russia as a cultural problem, present in every big match. The player suggested many fans do it to provoke players but pointed out that it becomes more than that with a fine line between provocation and racism.

On July 20th the Russian Football Union fined Spartak Moscow 250 000 RUB (€3650) for racist chanting and warned the club they could face stricter sanctions if incidents reoccur.

Within one week from the first incident, the opening round of the Russian Premier League saw Spartak players on the receiving end of racist abuse from Dynamo Moscow fans on 18 July.

The incident was reported by the RFU officer on combatting racism and discrimination in football, Alexey Smertin, in the framework of a monitoring system introduced by the RFU starting from the current season.

The RFU disciplinary fined Dynamo Moscow 250 000 RUB (€ 3650) for racist chanting and warned the club could face stricter sanctions if such incidents reoccur.

At the same fixture, Dynamo Moscow fans displayed a homophobic banner targeting Spartak fans reading ‘Hello piglets, slaves of a gay’ referring to historic character of Spartacus. The RFU disciplinary deemed the banner ‘unauthorised’ but did not satisfy its nature and fine Dynamo Moscow 25000 RUB (€365).

The Fare network has published monitoring reports on discriminatory incidents in Russian football since 2012 in cooperation with the Moscow based SOVA center think tank.

The latest report, A changing picture: Incidents of discrimination in Russian football 2015-2017, was launched by Fare and the SOVA centre at the end of last season. There were 89 racist and far-right incidents at Russian games in the 2016-17 season.

The SOVA Center have come under pressure from the Russian government through the declaration of the centre as a ‘foreign agent’ late last year. This label is a direct challenge to their work and may restrict their ability to operate within Russia in the future.

© Svetlana Beketova