Russia told African side could walk off at 2018 World Cup

CSKA Moscow had flouted a ban on supporters in home match with City on Tuesday

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The Independent Football

A leading Fifa anti-racism campaigner last night warned that an African team may walk off the field at Russia’s 2018 World Cup if nothing is done about the country’s racism problem. The prediction came as CSKA Moscow learnt they will not face action despite a flagrant flouting of a fan ban imposed at Tuesday’s Champions League tie with Manchester City because of home supporters’ persistent racist abuse.

Piara Powar, a member of Fifa’s anti-discrimination task force, stopped short of calling for Russia to be stripped of hosting the 2018 World Cup. But 48 hours after the head of the tournament organising committee, Alexei Sorokin, laughed off claims of high levels of racism, Powar said that President Vladimir Putin must tackle the issue and the country should stop denying it has a problem.

“It is an absolute possibility [in 2018] that we will have a strong, confident African team that will say, ‘We are not taking this, we are leaving regardless of what is at stake – this issue is bigger than this match’,” Powar said.

“The way that Russian fans are behaving at the moment, the place where the debate is at, I can well imagine that happening. What is happening inside stadiums, the far-right involvement, the levels of racism and attacks that are taking place on minorities in and around football stadiums are at levels completely unacceptable in a country that is going to be hosting the next World Cup.”

Powar, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe, spoke out as Uefa ruled there was no breach during the match with City of the punishment imposed on CSKA for their supporters’ racism, despite 300 fans cheering the home side to come back from two goals down to draw 2-2 in a game which was supposed to be played behind closed doors.


Sources in Moscow indicated that tickets allocated to Uefa’s partner organisations had found their way into fans’ hands. But the European governing body clearly does not have an appetite to investigate that. Less than 24 hours after City had tabled an official complaint, Uefa said: “Only people who were allowed to enter the stadium (clubs’ delegations, media, security staff, Uefa and guests of sponsorship partners) attended the match, with no record of inappropriate behaviour.”

City have written to Uefa in the strongest terms, pointing out that the Russian authorities went to every available length to prevent their own fans getting close to the game. That included a block of flats near to the stadium being closed off to City supporters by local police.

Uefa’s chief of press, Pedro Pinto, said: “We can’t stop a limited number of sponsors and corporate guests from supporting their own team.” Yet the credibility of the “behind closed doors” punishment dished out to CSKA is in tatters, leaving the organisation’s president, Michel Platini, to suggest yesterday that only women and children may be allowed into such matches – rather than completely closing stadiums as punishment. The Turkey football federation introduced rules in 2011 allowing only women and children under 12 into games involving teams sanctioned for unruly fan behaviour.

The City captain, Vincent Kompany, was indignant about the CSKA support present on Tuesday. “You say: ‘No fans’, then all of a sudden you turn up and basically the only team that hasn’t got fans is Man City. So who’s getting punished?” he asked. “Who is being done for racism? Man City or Moscow? They’ll say it’s sponsors and so on – and they need to give certain allocations – but why are we getting punished, you know?

“If you want to play it fair then, fair enough, you’ve got to let your sponsors have some tickets, but why the hell do we not have any fans here? Why? What have our fans done wrong? So it needs to be looked at, it needs to be changed, because our fans shouldn’t be punished.”