September 27, 2010 | In: Articles
Fifa & Uefa powerless to act on racist Russian flag
Fifa and Uefa say they cannot take action against the Russian Football Union’s failure to punish Lokomotiv Moscow for displaying racist banners.
Lokomotiv Moscow fans celebrated Peter Odemwingie’s sale in the transfer window with a banner showing a banana and the message: “Thanks West Brom”.
But both Fifa and Uefa have released statements to BBC Sport saying that they do not have any authority to act.
“Only the competition organiser can issue sanctions,” said Fifa.
The Russian Football Union’s (RFU) disciplinary body held a board meeting on 25 August, but opted not to fine Lokomotiv and the Russian Football Union’s director general Alexei Sorokin insisted that the banana banner was not “racist”.
“If it was a League match, the Russian FA would be responsible, and if it was a Uefa competition match, Uefa would be responsible,” added the Fifa statement.
Coloured players feel the open racism there
Nigeria international Peter Odemwingie
Uefa issued a statement saying: “This issue does not come under Uefa’s jurisdiction, since it is, of course, up to the national associations to regulate and run their domestic leagues, including disciplinary matters.”
Asked whether Russia should be allowed to stage the 2018 World Cup given its failure to act over the banner, Fifa said: “It seems that you are making a statement/judgement, rather than posing a question.”
Russia is one of five bidders for the 2018 World Cup – with the winner due to be announced on 2 December.
Earlier this month Sorokin, who is also the head of Russia’s 2018 bid, defended Russia’s track record in dealing with racism in football.
“The RFU doesn’t accept any demonstrations of racism,” said Sorokin. I know that this banner applied to a certain player and to the manner of how he played in his last matches,” said Sorokin.
“Apparently fans were not happy with the fact that he plays better for Nigeria and worse for the club. That’s why they have shown their satisfaction after he left. And there is nothing racial in it.
“If there would be another player – from Russia, Denmark, Norway or Japan, for example – the reaction could be the same. In Russia ‘to get a banana’ means ‘to fail a test somewhere’.
“Welliton and Vagner Love have obtained some fans’ choice awards and they are really popular among people,” added Sorokin, referring to the Spartak Moscow striker and CSKA Moscow forward. “So what’s the problem?
“About five years ago one Russian international was booed as well and received the same banners. This is a free expression of the will but there are all kinds of measures for those who misbehave.
Brazilian Welliton was also targeted by a racist banner
“The Russian Football Union doesn’t absolutely accept any demonstrations of racism and roughly restrains them with all available methods.”
After the BBC interviewed Sorokin, Odemwingie spoke in depth about the banana banner claiming that a minority of fans had been involved but alleged that black players are regularly subjected to insults in the Russian league and that the authorities did not act.
“Coloured players feel the open racism there and I recall a game against CSKA Moscow when their fans started the sick noises – I wouldn’t have any of it and gave it back to them,” said Odemwingie.
“This was widely publicised because photographers had shots of my protest but still nothing was done to curb it.
“Sadly, it’s a picture of a minority group in Russia – it really makes you feel sick but that is what it is.”
In the past other Russian clubs have been punished over displaying racist banners.
In 2007 Spartak Moscow were fined about £13,000 when some of its fans held up a banner “Monkey go home” at a game after Welliton, a Brazilian, joined the club.
And two years ago Uefa fined Zenit St Petersburg £38,000 after Marseille players were targeted by some of the Russian club’s fans.