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Zenit St Petersburg fans demand no blacks or gays

Published: 9:30AM Tuesday December 18, 2012 Source: Reuters

  • Zenit St. Petersburg's Igor Denisov (R) fights for the ball with Malaga's Seba (Source: Reuters)
    Zenit St. Petersburg's Igor Denisov (R) fights for the ball with Malaga's Seba - Source: Reuters

The largest fan group of Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg has demanded the club refrain from buying black and gay players.

"We're not racists but we see the absence of black players at Zenit as an important tradition," Zenit fan club Landscrona said in a letter, called the "Selection 12 manifesto", posted on its website today.

"It would allow Zenit to maintain the national identity of the club, which is the symbol of St Petersburg."

Zenit have been the only top club in Russia to have never signed an African player while the northern city of St Petersburg is known to have a strong right-wing nationalist influence.

The fans said they want more home-grown or European players in the team.

"We only want players from other brotherly Slav nations, such as Ukraine and Belarus as well as from the Baltic states and Scandinavia. We have the same mentality and historical and cultural background as these nations," the letter said.

They also expressed their opposition to having "sexual minorities" in the team. Several prominent black players have turned down lucrative offers from the wealthy club over the past 12 months after receiving death threats from Zenit fans. A Zenit spokesman said on Monday the club would not comment on the fans' letter.

The former Zenit and Russia striker Alexander Panov said the fans have no right to influence the club's selection policy. "If we don't have enough good players from St Petersburg, then what should the club do?" he said.

"All clubs around the world have black players. If they are absent from Zenit - it's Zenit's problem. I don't think fans should demand the club buy or don't buy certain players. The fans have the right to go to the stadium or stay home."

Zenit have been in turmoil for the past few months with several senior players unhappy after the wealthy club splashed out more than 60m Euros on the Brazil forward Hulk and Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel just before the transfer deadline.

Zenit demoted the Russia captain Igor Denisov to the reserve team in September after he refused to play, issuing an ultimatum to renegotiate his contract in line with what Hulk was making. Denisov was later allowed to rejoin the first team after making an apology.