Russia: Racism charges ‘stupid’

Russia: Racism charges ‘stupid’

MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Russia: Racism charges ‘stupid’

Russian fans cheer for their team in the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw during a match against Czech Republic. EPA Photo

Russia’s sports minister has called allegations that fans had hurled racial abuse at the Czech Republic’s only black player “stupid,” saying they were only booing those who did not join their Mexican wave.

“This is stupid and unfair,” Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko was quoted as saying by the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

“I was at that match and saw everything. Our fans started a ‘wave’ but the Czech sector did not stand up. So they started criticizing the Czechs by making the corresponding noises.”

A watchdog group said Ethiopian-Czech player Theo Gebre Selassie was subjected to racial abuse during Russia’s 4-1 victory in Friday’s Euro 2012 opening match for both sides.

Rafal Pankowski of the Polish-based organization Never Again -- part of the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network -- said his group’s monitors “heard monkey chants directed by some Russian fans” at Selassie.

FARE has backing from European football’s governing body UEFA but operates independently out of Vienna.

Mutko said FARE “has nothing to do with football” and should not be trusted as a source.

“The heads of UEFA attended that match and no one had any complaints,” Mutko was quoted as saying. “Some of you are writing about this citing some sort of organization. Well, we can stand up for ourselves too.”