AVB slams fans over racism

2015-03-16 08:49
Hulk (AFP)

Moscow - Zenit St. Petersburg coach Andre Villas-Boas branded Torpedo Moscow fans a "disgrace" for racial abuse aimed at his star striker Hulk during the 1-1 draw in the Russian Premier League on Sunday.

The league leader's Brazilian striker, who scored in the match, was the victim of monkey chants from home fans. In response, Hulk blew a kiss at the stands.

"The game was a disgrace. There was bad football, bad supporters because of the insults to Hulk," Villas-Boas said in televised comments, adding that it would damage the image of the 2018 World Cup host nation.

"The insults, the racist insults to Hulk, they go around the world and this is the image of the Russian Premier League."

Hulk said he was saddened by the incident.

"It's impossible to understand, accept or explain things like this," he told Zenit's website.

"It's not the first time I've encountered these kinds of incidents, but every time, again and again, I have to call for all players to be respected."

On his decision to blow a kiss towards his abusers, he said: "What else can you do in this situation, how can you not react with a smile? If I treat all fans with respect, then I'd like the same reaction in return."

Hulk, who joined Zenit in 2012, has been targeted by Russian fans before. Spartak Moscow's supporters were banned for one game over monkey chants directed at the striker in September.

In December, Hulk alleged he had been racially abused by Russian referee Alexei Matyunin during a league game. The referee was cleared last month by a Russian Football Union panel, which ruled there was insufficient evidence of what exactly was said.

Torpedo itself has twice been forced to close part of its stadium this season as punishment for racist behavior by fans. Both cases involved monkey chants, with Dynamo Moscow's Christopher Samba the victim in September and FC Rostov's African players targeted two months later.

Sunday's incident came less than a month after a report by two anti-discrimination organizations which found more than 200 cases of racist and discriminatory behavior linked to Russian soccer over two seasons.

Villas-Boas was also sharply critical of the playing surface at the Saturn Stadium near Moscow, saying its worn and muddy condition risked player injury ahead of Zenit's Europa League round-of-16 match against Torino on Thursday.

Zenit had looked set for victory against relegation-threatened Torpedo after Hulk blasted in a 35th-minute opener with a 25-yard free kick. Torpedo's new signing, Iceland striker Arnor Smarason, equalized with a scissors kick into the top corner in stoppage time.

Zenit's lead at the top dropped from seven to five points after defending champion CSKA easily beat 10-man Mordovia Saransk 4-0 Saturday.

Midfielder Roman Eremenko scored twice to take his season tally to nine from 14 league games.

CSKA was given extra breathing room in the league standings when third-place Dynamo Moscow lost at Spartak Moscow 1-0. That leaves CSKA with a five-point cushion in the second of the two Champions League spots.

Spartak's winner was credited to an own goal by Dynamo center-back Douglas, who was unlucky to see Sergei Parshivlyuk's cross bounce off his back and go over goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov.

In other results, fourth-place FC Krasnodar missed a chance to move closer to the Champions League spots by drawing 1-1 with Ural Yekaterinburg on Friday.

Premier League newcomer Arsenal Tula stunned Lokomotiv Moscow on Saturday in a 1-0 win that sends Arsenal out of the automatic relegation zone and up to 14th, while FC Ufa and Amkar Perm drew 1-1.


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