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Russia

Barcelona: Malcom could leave Zenit after ultras' racist banner

According to Ria Novosti, the Russian club could sell the Brazilian in January having just paid Barça €40m after fans unfurl racist banner.

Former Barcelona winger Malcom could be set to leave Zenit Saint Petersburg just days after joining the Russian club from Camp Nou after receiving abuse from a section of the club’s fans during his debut against Krasnodar.

Malcom joined Zenit for 40 million euros after a single season at Barcelona but the reigning Russian Premier League champions are already pondering moving the Brazilian on after fans unfurled a banner during the game last Saturday that read: “Thanks to our leaders for remaining true to our traditions.” The message was an ironic reference to Zenit’s tacit policy of not signing black players.

Although Zenit have not made any official statement, Russian daily Ria Novosti reported that the club may seek a new team for Malcom in January in the face of their fans’ unrest. “Zenit could sell Malcom in January because of problems with racism. The fans have not accepted him,” the newspaper wrote, citing a Brazilian source.

Racism in Russian football "not an issue"

Black players in Russia are no strangers to racist incidents and Zenit’s Krestovsky Stadium was the scene of monkey chants aimed at France internationals Paul Pogba and Ousmane Dembélé during a pre-World Cup friendly in April 2018. Although the tournament passed off largely without incident, black players are regularly subjected to insensitive treatment in the Russian league – and sometimes by their own clubs. Last year, Spartak posted an image of Pedro Rocha, Fernando and Luiz Adriano during a training camp in Dubai with accompanying text that read: “See how chocolate melt in the sun.”

There has been little if any genuine attempt to stamp out racist incidents in Russian stadiums despite anti-discrimination group Fare documenting over 100 cases across two season in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup.

An ambassador for the tournament in Russia, former Chelsea midfielder Aleksey Smertin, who also represented both Spartak and Lokomotiv Moscow, denied racism was an issue in the country, stating it “does not exist.”

"Racism in Russia is like fashion," he said before the tournament. "It comes from abroad, from different countries. It was never, ever here before. Ten years ago, some fans may have given a banana to black guys - it was just for fun.”