Russian Premier League

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Spartak tweet on black player causes uproar (video)

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Russian Premier League and UEFA Europa League side Spartak Moscow is in hot water this morning after posting a video on its Twitter feed.

The footage shows several of Spartak’s smiling black players stretching with the caption, “See how chocolate melts in the sun” accompanied by sun and chocolate bar emojis.

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Spartak is training in the UAE, where the weather is 55 degrees warmer than Moscow this week, but few on social media are seeing the humor in the post given the myriad issues regarding racism in Russian football and the magnifying glass on the country ahead of this summer’s World Cup.

Anti-racism organization “Kick It Out” issued the following statement:

This social media post from the official account of Spartak Moscow only continues to highlight the prejudices towards black people in Russia. It is a reminder, that along with the whole of football, there is significant work to do to eradicate racism of all forms from the sport.

Before you ask, it shouldn’t matter whether the caption is cleared with the players beforehand; First off, they are employees of the club so the question is instantly tainted. Even if the players found it 100 percent free of offense, that doesn’t make it so for the world’s population. That matters.

Here’s the original post, for as long as it stays on the Internet (Don’t shoot the messenger when Spartak is pressured into taking it down and this is a blank space):

5,442 miles for a league game. The longest away day ever?

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When the new Russian Premier League season kicks off this Sunday, there will be one heck of a journey for Zenit St. Petersburg and their new manager Roberto Mancini.

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They are heading east.

Zenit will play newly-promoted FC-SKA Khabarovsk (who have never played in the Russian Premier League before) and the new boys hail from the eastern Russian city of Khabarovsk, which is nestled close to the border with China and both Seoul, South Korea and Tokyo, Japan are just a quick flight away.

Zenit, based in the far west of Russia, will take a seven-and-a-half hour flight to Khabarovsk for the game, but if any fans wanted a true away day experience then it would take 111 hours to drive the 5,442 miles journey, while a train ride would take five days and 17 hours according to Google.

Of course, Zenit won’t be the only team to have this journey this season as the train ride from Moscow to Khabarovsk (it’s on the Trans-Siberian Railway line, which is handy…) is 5,296 miles, and 10 of the Russian Premier League’s 16 teams are located in the east of the country, so there will be plenty of trips out to the far east of Russia this season.

Now, we all know Seattle to New York or LA to Boston is a long trip for Major League Soccer teams, but Seattle to NYC is a mere (!) six-hour flight and just 2,838 mile drive. MLS fans, what have you been complaining about when it comes to following your team across the country…

With my tongue now firmly out of my cheek, Zenit to FC-SKA Khabarovsk, and vice versa, must be the longest journey for a league game in soccer history.

Who is Manchester United’s UEL opponent Rostov?

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Jose Mourinho and Manchester United have learned their fate for the UEFA Europa League’s Round of 16.

The Red Devils face Russian side FC Rostov in the next round of the tournament, four victorious ties from claiming an automatic spot in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Spurs sent packing | Full UEL draw ]

So who is Rostov? Seventh in the Russian Premier League standings, Selmashi finished second last season and won the league in 1994 and 2008.

Rostov entered the Europa League after a run through the Champions League which saw the club knock out Anderlecht and Ajax, both still alive in the UEL, before finishing third behind Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich in the group stage. Rostov beat Sparta Prague in the Round of 32 of the UEL.

The club is led by former Moldova boss Ivan Daniliants. Its leading scorer is left wing Dmitri Poloz with 11 goals, and Ecuadorian national teamer Christian Noboa and Moldova veteran Alexandru Gațcan among its mainstays.

While some will make the case that a rough pitch, long trip, and stingy team makes this draw a bad one for United, Mourinho’s crew should triumph. How worse could it have been? This one won’t be easy, but consider Roma, Schalke, Borussia Monchengladbach… even a reunion with Memphis Depay and Lyon would bring more of a challenge than Rostov.

Russian official Mutko seeks to retain FIFA Council seat

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) Under fire for his role in Russia’s state doping program, Vitaly Mutko has begun the process of a FIFA integrity check to be an election candidate.

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Mutko, who heads Russian operations to organize the 2018 World Cup, has been elected by European soccer leaders since 2009 to represent them on FIFA’s ruling committee.

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His FIFA seat is due for re-election in April, though potential candidates must pass a vetting and eligibility check by a review panel appointed by the world soccer body.

On Friday, Mutko was implicated in widespread evidence detailed by Canadian investigator Richard McLaren that he oversaw a state-backed doping program as sports minister.

Hours later, UEFA said Mutko was among five applicants for four vacant seats on the FIFA Council. The April 5 vote is by 55 European member federations.

Mutko has retained his FIFA positions and presidency of the Russian soccer federation since McLaren’s interim report was published in July.

The World Anti-Doping Agency then called on the FIFA ethics committee to investigate Mutko based on McLaren’s evidence.

The full investigation report release on Friday seemed to confirm that Mutko was asked to cover up a positive doping test by a Russian Premier League player from Uzbekistan.

Mutko was also implicated as sports minister in overseeing widespread doping programs of Russian athletes who competes at the 2012 London Olympics, 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, and the 2013 track and field world championships, held in Moscow.

It is unclear if FIFA’s ethics committee has a mandate to prosecute non-soccer cases.

Asked on Friday if UEFA could launch its own investigation of Mutko, leaders of the European body deferred to FIFA’s ongoing vetting process.

“We have written to FIFA with the five potential candidates and the procedure is FIFA has to go through this eligibility check,” UEFA legal director Alasdair Bell said.

Bell acknowledged that the McLaren report “appears to contain some serious allegations” though noted that “these are contested.”

Three of Mutko’s long-standing colleagues are standing down from their FIFA Council seats from Europe: Michel D’Hooghe of Belgium, Senes Erzik of Turkey, and Marios Lefkaritis of Cyprus.

UEFA said the other election contenders are: Sandor Csanyi, a current UEFA executive committee member from Hungary; Geir Thorsteinsson, president of Iceland’s soccer federation; former AC Milan player Dejan Savicevic of Montenegro; and Costakis Koutsokoumnis, the Cyprus federation president.

Everton makes it official with Russian League’s reigning player of year Niasse

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The biggest player signing of Monday’s transfer Deadline Day has gone down at Goodison Park, as Oumar Niasse has passed his physical and will join Everton.

The reigning Russian Premier League Player of the Year, Niasse was tipped for Everton after the club agreed a reported $19 million deal with Lokomotiv Moscow earlier Monday.

[ WATCH: Deadline Day show live, Monday, 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN, online via Live Extra ]

He has 13 goals and 10 assists so far this season, and the four-times capped Senegalese will add pace and danger to Everton’s attack.

From Everton.com:

“I started to watch Everton more since the beginning of October because I had heard about their interest. I was interested to see how they play and how they have good young players. If you see players who are aged 20 or 21 and see them perform like that, you know you have a good coach.”

Big move for the Toffees, who have sent Aiden McGeady and Steven Naismith packing this window.