Its record on dealing with racist abuse has been mixed and now Russia has been urged by a leading anti-apartheid activist to show a tougher approach to the issue ahead of hosting the 2018 World Cup.
The man who led South Africa’s successful World Cup bid in 2010, Danny Jordaan wants Russia to start implementing life bans for any players or individuals found guilty of racism within football.
“Given our own history as South Africa as a country and given our struggle against apartheid and racism…this is an issue that Russia must give serious attention to,” Jordaan told CNN’s Amanda Davies.
In the past, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko has insisted there is no major racism problem in the country, though earlier this month FC Rostov coach Igor Gamula said he did want to sign a Cameroonian because the club has “enough dark-skinned players, we’ve got six of the things.”
Gamula, who apologized for his comments, was given a five-game ban.
During this season’s Champions League leading Russian club CSKA Moscow has had to play its games behind closed doors because of fan abuse toward black players. That punishment was handed out by European governing body UEFA.
And in an interview with the Associated Press, FIFA anti-racism adviser Tokyo Sexwale suggested black players might even boycott the 2018 World Cup, saying “there are certain parts [of Moscow where] if you are my color it’s unsafe.”
Jordaan, who began to campaign against apartheid in the 1970s, argued there should be “no compromise” on the issue of racism in football.
“You’ve already seen the response from some of the leading players on the African continent,” said Jordaan.
“We will certainly, at the level of the Confederation of African Football and FIFA, raise these issues because we cannot see the same teams there that will be subjected to racial abuse and threats.”
Jordaan pointed to the NBA’s leadership in dealing with Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Donald Sterling, banning him for life after privately taped racist remarks were leaked to celebrity website TMZ.com.
“In our own country we opposed both legislation and the conduct of racists in our country — they must be confronted,” added Jordaan, referring to his own country’s history in dealing with apartheid.
“It must be dealt with severely. There must be decisive and very strong action.