A Zenit St. Petersburg supporters group has issued a staggeringly ridiculous statement demanding that black and gay footballers be excluded from the team to "maintain the national identity of the club." What takes it to another level of stupidity is that the clearly racist statement actually begins with the words "We're not racists but..."
"We're not racists but we see the absence of black players at Zenit as an important tradition," Zenit fan club Landscrona said in a letter, called the "Selection 12 manifesto", posted on its website (www.landscrona.ru) on Monday.
"It would allow Zenit to maintain the national identity of the club, which is the symbol of St Petersburg." [...]
"We only want players from other brotherly Slav nations, such as Ukraine and Belarus as well as from the Baltic states and Scandinavia. We have the same mentality and historical and cultural background as these nations," the letter said.
They also expressed their opposition to having "sexual minorities" in the team and demanded that each player would give "101 percent effort" in every match.
According to Reuters, Zenit are the only Russian Premier League club who have never signed an African player, though they did upset many fans with the high-priced signings of Brazilian striker Hulk and Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel. In September, the local Communist party made a public plea for Vladimir Putin to save the club from greed and install a North Korean "taskmaster" as manager. A fake bomb was also found at the club's training facility with the words "Hulk out" attacked to it.
Anyway, this serves as a reminder that anything that begins by saying "we're not racist but..." is probably going to be the most racist thing you read all day.
UPDATE: Zenit manager Luciano Spalletti didn't issue a direct response to Landscrona's statement, but he did make it clear that he, and by extension the club, do not agree with their sentiment. From the Independent:
Without referring directly to the statement, Zenit boss Spalletti today told fc-zenit.ru: "Tolerance for me is the ability to understand and accept differences.
"Furthermore, being tolerant means that you fight against any kind of stupidity.
"I can personally assure you that I will do everything I can to help those who seek to explain what tolerance is, and the need to respect other cultures and traditions.
"The team has gathered players from different countries and ethnic groups who work together to achieve a common goal. Their combined efforts bring tangible results."