Putin urged to act against racism in Russian soccer

Wed Oct 22, 2014 10:20am EDT
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By Mike Collett

LONDON (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin must demand an end to the racism plaguing Russian soccer and the country should stop denying it has a problem, the executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe told Reuters on Wednesday.

Piara Power, who is 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 feared an African team could walk off the field at those finals unless action was taken now.

"I think the time has come for President Putin and also for the Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, to come out publicly and say enough is enough. This has got to stop," he said.

"If Putin and Medvedev don't come out and talk about these things in a very explicit way we won't see the changes we need to see."

Power envisaged a scenario where an African team, playing in a World Cup match being televised live to hundreds of millions around the world, walked off in the face of racist jeers and taunts from Russian fans.

"It is an absolute possibility 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'," he said.

"The way that Russian fans are behaving at the moment, the place where the debate is at, I can well imagine that happening."

With less than four years to go, Power said there was still much to be done and questioned whether the authorities had the drive to do it.   Continued...

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to young soccer players during a visit to Spartak's stadium Otkritye Arena in Moscow, August 27, 2014. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin