Zenit fans are mad at the media for distorting their racist, homophobic manifesto, apparently making the understandable mistake of describing its racism and homophobia.
In the words of the great Brian Fontana: “Take it easy, Champ. Why don’t you sit this next one out, stop talking for a while.”
On Monday, Zenit’s largest supporters group (Landscrona) posted a letter on its website saying the absence of black players is important to the club’s Eastern and Northern European roots, also claiming “sexual minorities” should not be signed by the club.
Steve already covered it here but according to Landscrona, he and the rest of the media are doing a hit job on the well-intended fan group.
The new statement read: “Unfortunately, it has become clear to us why many players refuse to speak to journalists. There have been numerous out-of-context headlines, distorted quotes and labels applied that go beyond reasonable limits.
“We once again strongly reject any accusations of racism. [The manifesto] does not mention anywhere that we believe that the people of certain countries and religions do not have the right to play for Zenit.”
The new statement quotes a line from the manifesto stating that European players should be prioritised and adds: “THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT IS A TABOO. To sign players from Latin America, for example, only makes sense if there has first been an honest, professional effort to sign a player from Russia, or Europe.
“We, as the most northerly club of all the major European cities, have no mental association with Africa, just as we have no association with South America or Austalia or Oceania. We have absolutely nothing against the people of these or any other continents, but we want a Zenit team primarily made of players who share our spirit and mentality.”
The language is softer, and to a lot of people, this is would be similar to selective policies employed by some otherwise aggrandized clubs (Athletic Bilbao) if we didn’t have reason to suspect this is just coded hate.
But this reframing is still ridiculous on a basic, human level. It’s one thing to recognize a natural affinity to things to which you’re connected, but to imply people in St. Petersburg have “no mental association with Africa” is insane.
There’s a clear, obviously, perhaps excessively mundane connection Russians have to Africans. They’re all people. I don’t have deep roots with anybody in Ghana, but it’s not too difficult for me to recognize our basic commonalities.
And once you think along those lines, it becomes very difficult to see why a club in Russia should (as the fans suggest) draw a huge circle around St. Petersburg and say “people within this area represent what Zenit is about.” That’s not to say there aren’t compelling reasons to want players with legitimate connections to the club to be brought into the team, but Zenit fans are extending those connections to Finland and Belarus.
Not to mention they’re now being incredibily disingenuous about their motives.
From Christopher Samba, the Congolese defender who left Blackburn for Anzhi Makhachkala last season:
“I’m not surprised,” Samba said, according to BBC Sport. “Everybody knows Zenit supporters are no good and racist. They are living in another century. It’s a sad day for Russian football. In this time we have different communities and countries that constitute teams. If they can’t accept that then they are never going to progress.
“It’s really sad. It’s slowing down the process of Russian football being a better league. I hope the Russian federation do the necessary to sanction it.”
Zenit’s a club with major ambitions, as evidenced by their purchases of Axel Witsel and Hulk. But thanks to their fans, they may soon be the most-hated team in the world, and while management tries to distance the club from the extremists, right now the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Zenit is hate.