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SBD Global/December 18, 2012/Franchises

Zenit St. Petersburg Fan Group Opposes Black, Gay Players On The Roster

The largest fan group of Russian Premier League champions Zenit St. Petersburg "has demanded the club refrain from buying black and gay players," according to Gennady Fyodorov of REUTERS. Zenit fan club Landscrona posted a letter called "Selection 12 manifesto" on its website that said, "We're not racists but we see the absence of black players at Zenit as an important tradition. It would allow Zenit to maintain the national identity of the club, which is the symbol of St. Petersburg." Zenit has 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 group also expressed its opposition to having "sexual minorities" on 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 spokesperson said on Monday that the club "would not comment on the fans' letter." Former Zenit and Russia striker Alexander Panov said, "If we don't have enough good players from St. Petersburg, then what should the club do? 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" (REUTERS, 12/17).
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