West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie hopes Russia being awarded the World Cup in 2018 will go some way to solving the country’s racism issues.
The 29-year-old was the victim of racial abuse from some fans during his three-year spell in Russia at Lokomotiv Moscow, before leaving to join Albion in August.
The Nigeria international, who is half-Russian, joined West Brom in August with some Lokomotiv fans displaying an offensive banner on his exit depicting a huge banana and which read ‘Thanks West Brom’.
Odemwingie, who has become a big hit at the Hawthorns since his £2.5 million move, scoring six goals already for the Baggies, would have preferred the World Cup to be staged in England – although he believes some good may come out of FIFA’s controversial decision to give it to Russia for the first time.
Odemwingie said: “In a way I am happy they have taken the World Cup there. A lot of different people and nationalities will come into the country and their mentality might change.
“The little negative part they have might reduce. It is a minority group and I think the country is now ready to deal with it. There are lots of people in Russia who love football.”
There has been much debate over the fact that the stadiums in Russia are not yet up to scratch to host a World Cup, but Odemwingie thinks FIFA were determined to break new ground. “They have their own agenda,” he added.
While Odemwingie is hopeful about a positive change, Moscow saw violent clashes just outside the Kremlin walls between riot police and about 5,000 football fans and nationalists on Saturday, who shouted “Russia for Russians.” Many of the protesters wore scarves and other memorabilia from Spartak and rival clubs, while chanting nationalist slogans such as “Moscow is a Russian city!” Police said 34 people were injured; six of them were still hospitalized on Sunday. All 65 people detained during the clashes have been released.