2018 World Cup campaigners express fears over Russian racist attacks

Moscow: Russia`s football authorities, who would host the 2018 World Cup, have been accused of ignoring a surge in race-related incidents around the sport, by campaigners.

Their warnings have come amid a rise in racist murders and neo-Nazi activity in the country that could stop thousands of non-white football fans from attending the tournament.

Rafal Pankowski, who monitors racist activity at Russian football matches with the backing of the European football body Uefa, accused the Russian Football Union of failing to acknowledge racism related incidents either inside or outside the grounds.

"There is hardly any acknowledgement of racism either inside or outside the grounds by the government and football authorities in Russia, and there is a pattern of denial when the problem is raised," the Guardian quoted Pankowski, as saying.

"Nazi slogans are common in many Russian stadiums. Matches are often interrupted with racist chants aimed at black players," he added.

He further stated that on his visit to Moscow this week, he found that the hate-crime rate is high in the city and that major bookshops openly sell racist literature.

In August, Russian fans abused the striker Peter Odemwingie days after he left Lokomotiv Moscow to join West Bromwich Albion with a banner bearing a cartoon banana and the words "Thanks West Brom".

However Pankowski said the World Cup could be used to foster change among fans in Russia.

"It could be a catalyst for some positive change. I think they will have to respond by building a new culture around football. They have eight years," he added.

Russia is one of the countries with the highest hate crime figures in the world. Statistics from the monitoring centre show that 80 people were murdered last year and another 411 wounded in the country. Most of these attacks were reportedly racist incidents.

Bureau Report

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