From Russia with hate

Fans of Russian club Zenit St Petersburg fans have demanded the club refrain from buying black and gay players.

In one of the more ludicrous instances of ‘we’re not racist but…’, Zenit fan club Landscrona said: ”We’re not racists but we see the absence of black players at Zenit as an important tradition.”

The statement continued: “It would allow Zenit to maintain the national identity of the club, which is the symbol of St Petersburg.”

I’m sure St Petersburg was delighted to find itself linked with such primitive attitudes. They’ll be going straight on the city’s Facebook page. As we speak the tourist board will be working on a suitable slogan to reflect its new found cultural heritage. Something like, ‘St Petersburg, where there’s always a warm welcome waiting for you, provided you’re not black, brown, gay or bisexual.’ Or possibly, ‘St Petersburg an historic city with Neanderthal views.’

Not content with telling the club who they shouldn’t sign, the supporters produced a list of nationalities that they would find acceptable. Basically, the more blue eyed and blonde-haired you are, the more welcome you will be at Zenit.

“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.

Listening to these views, it’s hard to believe that they are being expressed in the 21st century.

Former Zenit and Russia striker Alexander Panov said the fans have no right to influence the club’s selection policy.

“If we don’t have enough good players from St Petersburg, then what should the club do?” the St Petersburg native was quoted as saying by local media.

“All clubs around the world have black players. If they are absent from Zenit – it’s Zenit’s problem. I don’t think fans should demand the club buy or don’t buy certain players. The fans have the right to go to the stadium or stay home.”

Goal of the day

Stunning acrobatic effort from Bologna’s Panagiotis Kone in their 3-2 win over Napoli.

Quote of the day

”We played without any determination, without a love for the shirt. Nobody wanted to play football. At least Oscar did try. I won’t name names, but the team played with no will. You can’t play a final like this without the will to play. That’s unacceptable.”

Lucas Piazon criticises his Chelsea team-mates for their lack of passion after Sunday’s Club World Cup defeat to Corinthians.

Mission impossible

Jose Mourinho has virtually conceded the Spanish league title after Sunday’s home draw with Espanyol left the reigning champions 13 points behind runaway leaders Barcelona.

While his players were putting a brave face on Madrid’s predicament - ”We can’t throw away the league,” said Sergio Ramos… “We can’t give it up for lost,” added Xabi Alonso, Mourinho was having none of it.

“It is practically impossible,” Mourinho told a news conference about their title hopes.

“That’s too much (of a gap) at this stage. Last year we had a 10-point advantage in February or March and we were able to maintain it.

“But if we can improve in the league it will serve to help us in the King’s Cup and the Champions League.”

To give an idea about how their standards have slipped, Real have dropped more points in their opening 16 matches of the current campaign than they managed all last season.

“I have never seen a situation like this before, losing so many points, and having a team so far from its objectives,” Mourinho added.

“It’s new for me, but I am not about to give up. I am not going to make a drama of it. We will seek to finish the season in the best way possible.

“We have titles within our reach and we have to fight for them, but the league is almost impossible now.”

Indeed, with Real 13 points adrift of Barcelona and their city rivals Atletico now 9 points of the league leaders, Spanish football is faced with the slightly embarrassing situation of having to maintain the illusion that the league is still competitive.

In the wake of his side’s 4-1 defeat at Camp Nou, Atletico boss Diego Simeone refused to play along.

“We tried to be competitive, played to our strengths, and we did well for a large part of the game, but this is a boring league,” he said. “With their firepower it is impossible.”

Not a happy camper

Italian striker Mario Balotelli will face Manchester City at a Premier League tribunal in London on Wednesday.

The forward is appealing against a fine imposed by the club for his poor disciplinary record last season. The 22-year-old missed 11 games domestically and in Europe last season because of suspensions. Although you could double that total if you include the games where he was physically present, but not actual ‘there’ in any meaningful sense.

Balotelli appealed against the decision but an independent panel of City’s board upheld the penalty. The case will now be heard by a three-man panel.

The Italian’s decision to pursue the case does tend to lend support to the theory that his days at City are numbered.

The sack race

Bulgaria’s Cherno More Varna have sacked coach Adalbert Zafirov and seven players after a bad run of results left them 10th in the top flight and out of the domestic cup.

Firing the coach for poor performances is standard procedure for struggling clubs, but Cherno More have upped the ante by dispensing with the services of several players.

Goalkeepers Petar Denchev and Plamen Kolev, defender Martin Dechev, midfielders Ivelin Yanev, Stamen Angelov and Hristian Popov and striker Doncho Atanasov were also fired because of “poor performance”, the club said in a statement.

Former Bulgaria defender Zafirov became club’s second coach this season after replacing Stefan Genov in September but he failed to produce an improvement.

Cherno More have already begun their search for a new coach with local media reporting former Levski Sofia coach Georgi Ivanov is the favourite to replace Zafirov.

Christmas comes early

FIFA has given Indonesia one final chance to put its house in order in what President Sepp Blatter described as a “Christmas gift”. An unfortunate choice of phrase to use when discussing the world’s most populous Muslim country. And there are people who have the audacity to suggest that the septuagenarian is out of touch.

Football in Indonesia has been plagued by a feud between the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) and the breakaway Indonesian Football Rescue Committee (KPSI), who want control of the sport in the country.

FIFA had given PSSI a December 10 deadline to reconcile its differences with KPSI, but Blatter told a news conference Indonesia would now be given an extension.

“I think it was quite a Christmas or end of year gift to Indonesia that they haven’t been suspended,” Blatter explained.

“It has been two years now, two years that they have tried to put together the two parts of the football organisations, but they couldn’t do it.”.

Zero tolerance

The spectator who reportedly racially abused Wellington Phoenix player Paul Ifill during their A-League match against Adelaide United will be banned from attending matches if found guilty.

Ifill said he was racially abused by a spectator on Sunday at Adelaide’s Hindmarsh Stadium.

Officials are working with police and the club to identify the offender and FFA chief David Gallop promised tough action against such fans.

“Fans must know they’ll get banned if they engage in that type of thing,” Gallop told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

“Football wants to celebrate its multiculturalism, its diversity and that kind of taunt is something that’s not on.

“We’ve seen overseas there can be criminal sanctions in relation to that. At this stage it’s dealt with as a ban and those bans must be taken seriously.

“You can expect a knock on your door from police if you engage in that type of behavior.”

Gallop hoped that Sunday’s incident was an isolated one and called on fans to help stamp out racism from the sport.

“We have to remember that was a very small minority of people that misbehaved,” Gallop said. “But our fans need to know we take seriously those issues.

“It’s an issue we need to stay vigilant about and we need our fans to stay vigilant about.

“If our fan groups can regulate that kind of thing then we’re a good chance of stamping it out.”

Adelaide captain Eugene Galekovic also offered his support for strong action against racism.

“I don’t condone racial sledges or anything like that … there is a line and you can’t really cross that line anymore,” Galekovic told reporters.

Match fixing latest

The president of South Africa’s football association and four other leading officials have been suspended in the wake of a FIFA report into a match-fixing scandal.

Kirsten Nematandani and the SAFA administrators, including new chief executive officer Dennis Mumble, have been removed for their role in the fixing of four friendlies South Africa played ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

SAFA vice-president Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, who has been asked to act as president in the interim, said: “This is a difficult situation for the association, and for those who have been named in the report.

“We hope that there will be no speculation about their presumed guilt or otherwise. We need to allow the investigation to take place speedily and fairly, so those that are innocent can be separated from those who are not.”

A FIFA investigation into the activity of convicted Singaporean match-fixer Wilson Perumal and his Football 4U organisation highlighted the involvement of the five South African officials, a press briefing was told.

The results of matches against Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia and Guatemala in the weeks leading up the 2010 World Cup were found to have been pre-arranged to benefit an Asian betting syndicate.

Finally…

Barcelona defender Eric Abidal has promised that he will not to be rushed back into to action too soon following his liver transplant earlier this year.

The Frenchman underwent the operation in April and has been recuperating since. Football is not the chief priority for the former Lyon left back, who has said that his priorities lie with his family.

“My wish is to return and at the moment I’m very happy because I feel great,” he told TV3.

“I want to play, but I have a family and I’m not going to take any risks. The first priority for me is them, and then myself.

“If I can play then perfect, and if not I can be with my family and the people who love me.”

Abidal was first diagnosed with cancer in March 2011 but made a return at the end of the 2010-11 season to lift the Champions League trophy with Barcelona.