14 September ~ Next weekend West Brom fans will display a banner supporting new signing Peter Odemwingie, a reply to the racist one Lokomotiv fans hung following his transfer from Moscow. The messageboard reactions I read to it this week were perhaps typical of a lot of British fans: "Shame on Lokomotiv, respect to West Brom!"; "An intelligent answer"; "Brilliant, a worthy reply". What is perhaps more surprising is that these were written by Russian fans on the forum. However, with the 2018 World Cup hosts announced in December, and the English newspapers seemingly now all onside, this is not an element of Russian football culture that will see much daylight in the UK.

It is not only the Lokomotiv fans who are being blamed. The "English PR machine" is being accused by many of making the most of the incident to ensure that the whole of Russia is judged by the standards of a minority that is "uncultured" and "ignorant". There already seems to have been some impact on the final outcome – the Nigerian FA has said it will not vote for Russia. The fans' argument is an easy one to follow – nobody supporting the English bid would want it to be seriously affected by the "significant minority" of Chelsea fans who recently chanted "Yiddo, Yiddo" at one of their own players, Yossi Benayoun.

However, responses to the picture of the banana in the banner (a crude reference to Russo-Nigerian Odemwingie's ethnicity) rather than to the whole incident perhaps show that there are still considerable differences between the reactions of many Russian and British football fans to racism. While many Russians felt the banner displayed ignorance, few could see why it had caused such deep offence. Some suggested that the English had simply lost their "famous subtle sense of humour" in not understanding what the banana represented.

To anyone who's visited a Russian football ground in the last 20 years, this attitude is probably not news. When I asked a Russian friend why some fans made monkey noises when black players on the opposition team got the ball, he couldn't understand why I thought it racist. He described it simply as a way of putting them off, suggesting that most people making the noises were not doing it maliciously.

Offensive as the banner was, it has to be hoped that the actions of a few will not have a huge effect on Russia's bid – it does not represent the country's tolerant fans and, in any case, the authorities will crack down on serious troublemakers. What is less certain is what they will be able to do in the long-term about the fans in between – the ones who join in the monkey chants because they think it's all a bit of a joke. Saul Pope

Comments (15)
Comment by ian.64 2010-09-14 11:09:05

It's worrying about the mindset of those who do the monkey chants and such in the belief that it's all 'fun'. How do you actually even begin to come to any solution that might get them to think that it's racist and therefore should not be done, their attitudes being so ingrained that they saturate their thinking?

Not just from a club perspective, but I hope that Odemwingie thrives and feels himself at home in his new role. Hopefully, it'll be complete and welcome contrast to his previous one and already the signs are that he's settling in and bringing his talent to bear immediately.

Comment by Pauly 2010-09-14 12:32:46


Tell me this. You obviously find it acceptable that your Russian friend admits they make monkey noises, but it's just to put the players off. Why make monkey noises and not lion or elephant noises? Why only do it to the black players? I find your tone in writing this piece appalling in that you seem to want to blame the players who don't conform to your idealist world rather than the attitude of so called football fans. Did Peter ask for this banner to be put up? Did the fans have to depict a banana? And no we English have not lost our sense of humour. There is nothing humourous about being racist.

Comment by biziclop 2010-09-14 13:13:35

It's funny to read racist anti-racism comments. For what else could you call the blatant disregard of cultural differences between England and Russia and claiming that your culture is superior to theirs?

And telling them they should adapt your principles. (Which you don't follow very closely anyway.)

Comment by Sash08 2010-09-14 13:34:22

I think you got the wrong end of the stick there. I don't think Saul finds the attitude of those Russians who make monkey noises at black players "acceptable".

Is that a cheese pie? Do you think "cultural difference" make racism "acceptable"? I am Russian and I sat through plenty of chat about "monkeys" around me at a recent match, followed by a spot of "howling" and I found it absolutely appalling tbh.

This banner gave plenty of ammunition to the British press ahead of the WC decision but some Russian fans have also asked whether the popular ditty about Adebayor's dad washing elephants might not be racist as well.

Comment by Max Payne 2010-09-14 14:05:52

The English media's use of this as a stick to knock the Russian bid with isn't just rotten conduct, it's hypocritical. There's plenty of robustly racist attitudes in Russia. I know, I was married to one! But this petty point scoring should not be allowed to detract from the bids being judged on merit.

Comment by Coral 2010-09-14 17:02:36

Fancy highlighting people being racist as being racist. It is similar to those who absolve some Italian Ultras of blame for making similar chants at Balotelli. It was because he was bad that they made monkey chants, not because he was black, they just knew this would wind him up. That’s fine then.
In whatever instance, the fact that players are singled out because of the colour of their skin is deeply uncomfortable for me. That it is a cultural thing is a red herring. No it is not racist in itself to believe that the Russians are worse than us in this example for abusing black people. I am aware that it may well be cultural acceptable to be like this to people of a different race, as Britain was earlier this century, but perhaps not getting the world cup will be a wake up call that they need to change.
As for the UK media, I am glad they are latching on to this. That it is making the Russian bid unstable is interesting. Do FIFA pick up The Sun and form their opinions based on what it says, or are they more objective and look at things such as fines handed out by UEFA to Zenit? Our media are busy doing enough harm to our own bid with what was said in a conversation over dinner, our FA reacted appropriately.
Just to round off, a quick quote from Olympique Marseille president Pape Diouf “What we went through was hideous. It was the classic stuff, the bananas thrown at black players warming up, the monkey chants, obscene gestures.” Someone should just tell him to lighten up they're only having a laugh.

Comment by StephL 2010-09-14 17:41:33

Pape Diouf is not president of Marseille anymore.

Comment by potts4 2010-09-14 19:47:29

I am sure Russians could find plenty of holes that still exsist in the English game. Being the West Ham fan, it amazes me the amount of people who still sing racist songs to Tottenham fans depsite the fact our current manager is of that faith and two of our star playmakers (benyoun and berkovic) in the last twenty years have hailed from Israel.

The answer to this is that it is simply a group mentality. One person makes a monkey noise, then once it seems acceptable the others join in. English crowds tend not to do that because of the drive to stop treating black people like this, but it still has not stopped the awful treatment of Mido being described as a shoe bomber, and has not been highlighted nowhere near enough.

Basically football still has a school yard attitude to these things on the whole and once the popular boys start, then everyone else thinks it is acceptable. The sad thing is, no matter how much you may educate someone, the schoolyard mentality still seems to hold the most power.

Comment by GCostanza 2010-09-15 02:03:29

Some good points on Hypocrisy here.

In England the problem is much improved, though many of the old views, what with aging fans in the PL, lie just below the surface.

However, in Russia and certain other Slavic or Latin countries the problem is worse, if only because it's far far more overt.

The only 'credible' explanation to this hatred is that these countries "have not experienced a large-scale 'influx' of non-white immigrants" unlike certain other European countries, which is not necessarily a theory I would wholly concur with.

Comment by Coral 2010-09-15 09:54:31

"Pape Diouf is not president of Marseille anymore" Ah that changes everything then.
"English crowds tend not to do that because of the drive to stop treating black people like this", so people only love Kammie because they are told to? A chap who once had bananas thrown at him in years gone by is something of a football treasure, to be a little over the top. Ian Wright the same. There are many black icons in football, is this just because people are told they must like them? People don't abuse black people in Britian as much because the police act and clubs ban them. There have been chants in the past at West Ham games and the fans have been ejected.

Comment by Jimafc 2010-09-15 15:03:08


You asked one of your Russian friends why some fans made monkey noises when black players on the opposition team got the ball and he couldn't understand why you thought it racist? Surely at that point you thought "My friend is a fucking moron"?



Comment by StephL 2010-09-15 19:27:43

Coral : no that doesn't change anything at all, it was only to correct you. Sorry about the intrusion, I won't do it anymore Sir.

Comment by Coral 2010-09-16 10:10:52

Intrude away, or have you only pedantic points to add?

Comment by ianor 2010-09-16 12:51:17

"Pauly", I think you should have another read of the article, he's saying that that is what a some russian fans think man, he's not saying that it is all bit of fun to make monkey noises and only to put people off, he's telling you what his friend seemed to think. Its the same as with the current article on homophobia everyone gets on their big patronising high horse, get over yourself man.

Comment by Pauly 2010-09-19 08:43:15

Ianor you're an idiot. Why are you talking about a completely different topic? What he is saying is that it's ok to be racist and people shouldn't be so sensitive. And to prove it he's asked his friend who agrees with him. Can't you read that? It's a racist article full stop. Rascim is the topic is about and nothing else so why don't you get over yourself; man with small shoes!

Related articles

Vince: The autobiography of Vince Hilaire
by Vince HilaireBiteback Publishing, £12.99Reviewed by Matthew BarkerFrom WSC 376, June 2018Buy the book In a recent interview, Vince...
Thou Shalt Not Pass: The Alistair Robertson story
by Alistair Robertson with Bill Howell Pitch Publishing, £18.99Reviewed by James BaxterFrom WSC 375, April 2018Buy the book There are...
Klopp: Bring the noise by Raphael Honigstein
Yellow Jersey Press, £12.99Reviewed by Huw RichardsFrom WSC 375, April 2018Buy the book Some managers seem destined for certain clubs....