ZURICH (Reuters) – FIFA said on Wednesday it was probing racist abuse directed at French players by Russian fans during a pre-World Cup friendly between the countries.
A Reuters photographer at pitch level for France’s 3-1 win on Tuesday night in St Petersburg heard monkey chants directed at French players on several occasions, including when N’Golo Kante came to the sideline for a throw-in.
“FIFA is collecting the different match reports and potential evidence in regards to the discriminatory incident reported in the media, including the one from the Fare observer who was present at the game,” FIFA said in a statement, referring to a network that combats discrimination in soccer in Europe.
The incident sparked calls to persevere in the fight against racism in soccer with less than three months before the World Cup.
French Sports Minister Laura Flessel-Colovic wrote on Twitter: “Racism does not have its place on soccer fields. We must act together at the European and international level to stop this intolerable behavior.”
Russia has pledged to crack down on racism as the country faces increased scrutiny ahead of this year’s World Cup, which it will host from June 14 to July 15 in 11 cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi.
Racist and discriminatory behavior is not uncommon in the Russian Premier League, including among fans of Zenit St Petersburg.
UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings against the club last week for racist chants during a recent Europa League match against RB Leipzig.
Zenit last year were ordered by UEFA to partially close their stadium after fans displayed a banner praising former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic, a convicted war criminal, during a 2-1 home win over Macedonian side Vardar Skopje also in the Europa League.
(Reporting by Brian Homewood and Grigory Dukor, Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by)