The reigning Russian Premier League champions Zenit St. Petersburg are “the most racist team” in the country. That is according to former CSKA Brazilian star Vagner Love, who recalls his voyages to the Petrovsky Stadium as a nightmare.
The 27-year-old Flamengo forward faced the same kind of treatment earlier this month at a Copa Liberatadores match at Ecuadorian club Emelev. Though he says it did not hurt him at all because he had become hardened to it in the Russian northern capital.
"In Russia similar things happened two or three times," Vagner Love told the Brazilian daily Globo Esporte. "It was always during the matches against Zenit, which is the most racist team in Russia. … It's their way."
Coincidence it might be, but Zenit St. Petersburg remain the only leading football club in Russia in which an African or Latin American has never played. Their former coach Dick Advocaat once admitted that the club’s core fans prevented him from signing players based on their skin color.
"Unfortunately, some players can't get over it, but, thank God, I never had a problem," Vagner Love added. "It all went in one ear and out the other. In such situations you should never get angry, or say or do anything. Life goes on and you come on the pitch to play."
During his seven spectacular years in Russia, Love became all-time top foreign scorer in the Russian Premier League, with 117 goals in 244 matches.
The problem of racism in Russian football has been in focus after the country was awarded the right to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Anzhi's Roberto Carlos and Christopher Samba have both been victims of mean banana-throwing episodes over the last year. While Spartak Moscow forward Emmanuel Emenike gave a finger to Dynamo Moscow fans after being steadily provoked to do so. The gesture cost the Nigerian a $17,000 fine, which Spartak president Leonid Fedun called a “shameful ruling” as the football authorities apparently penalized the wrong side of the conflict.