Nigerian defender Bryan Idowu has opened up about racial abuse amongst Russian football fans.
This comes amid concerns that the 2018 World Cup to be hosted by Russia this summer could be marred by racism and hooliganism.
Idowu, who made his debut for the Super Eagles in the 4-2 friendly win over Argentina in November, was born and raised in St. Petersburg and knows all about racism in Russia.
As a young player for Zenit St. Petersburg, a club with a far-right fan base, Idowu said he was abused by a supporter while returning from training.
“There’s no black in Zenit’s colors,” he recalls the fan saying. “What’s going on there, and why are you in the kit?’ My friend got angrier than I did. I just responded with a smile.”
Six weeks ahead of the World Cup, FIFA is investigating Russia over monkey chants aimed at France players during a friendly in March, while the Russian Football Union fined two top clubs, Zenit and Spartak Moscow, for racist chants last month.
Idowu, who plays for Amkar Perm, told AP that he’s been racially profiled by Russian police — at one stage so often that he and a friend placed bets on the subway on which of them would be stopped and searched.
The defender said he’s twice suffered racial abuse on the field, and believes fans view monkey chants as a tactic to help their team.
“I think most of them do that to put pressure on a player psychologically, maybe so he doesn’t want to keep playing,” Idowu said.
“It could just be because someone finds it funny. … Sometimes I’m walking along (the street) and there’s five guys, or a guy with his girlfriend, and one of them sees me and makes a joke so his friends will laugh.”