Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong was sent off in the Russian Premier League season opener against Spartak Moscow when responding to racial abuse by fans.
With FK Ufa visiting Spartak Moscow, Frimpong slipped and lost the ball before fouling an opponent. Home Spartak fans began taunting Frimpong by shouting monkey chants at the visiting 23-year-old. The Ghanan responded by yelling explitives at the fans and showed them an offensive hand gesture, to which the referee showed him a straight red card in the 32nd minute. Frimpong attempted to explain himself to the assistant referee standing right there, but to no avail.
The 2017 Confederations Cup and the 2018 World Cup is to be held in Russia, and much attention has been given to the country’s seemingly deep-rooted problem with racism. While FIFA has trumpeted minor changes they tout as major improvements, these incidents continue while the clock ticks down to the events.
Frimpong, who came up through the Arsenal youth system and spent three years with the club, responded to the incident on Twitter after the match.
This situation is always difficult players, and many react differently. Some have decided to walk off the field, some react violently, while others have chosen to ignore it and take action after the match. The players are in a difficult position, where fan interaction of any kind is often frowned upon, and in many cases – like Frimpong’s – punished. Therefore, players have little options outside of absorbing the abuse and looking to respond later.
Teams are often punished in the aftermath of such incidents, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Russian Federation come down on Spartak with a stadium closure. But aside from a full cultural overhaul, it’s difficult to control the minds of fans who are barely affected by team punishments. Russia’s issues are clearly deeply engrained in the societal mindset, and there is little FIFA can do to change it at the moment.
You can see video of the incident here, where the racist chants can be clearly heard: