It wasn't racism, it was about a Mexican wave, says Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko

 

Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko yesterday described allegations that Russian football fans racially abused Czech Republic defender Theodor Gebre Selassie at a Euro 2012 game in Poland as "stupid and untrue".

The Football Against Racism in Europe organisation claimed one of its observers at the game between Russia and the Czech Republic in Wroclaw on Friday heard Russian fans direct monkey chants at the player. Selassie said he noticed that he was racially abused by small sections of fans, though he added that it was "nothing extreme".

Mr Mutko claimed Russian fans were voicing disapproval at Czech fans who did not take part in a Mexican wave. "The Czech sector didn't stand up so they started condemning the Czechs with the appropriate noises," he said.

The run-up to the tournament has been dominated by allegations of racism in both Poland and Ukraine, though officials from both countries say media coverage is overblown.

Some black and Asian England fans arriving in Ukraine's city of Donetsk for England's opening game against France tonight said family members had urged them to avoid Ukraine, after the BBC's Panorama broadcast footage of racist attacks in the country. The families of black England players Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have chosen not to travel to the tournament amid fears of racist attacks.

UEFA has not commented on alleged racist abuse by Russia fans. But it says that it will initiate disciplinary proceedings against the Russian Football Union for flare throwing and improper conduct by Russian fans after the game.

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