Torpedo Moscow punished for racist abuse of Hulk
MOSCOW (AP) — Torpedo Moscow will play two home games behind closed doors as punishment for its fans racially abusing Zenit St. Petersburg striker Hulk.
The Brazilian, who is black, was taunted with monkey chants during Zenit’s 1-1 draw with Torpedo on Sunday. In response, Hulk blew a kiss at the stands.
The Russian Football Union disciplinary commission ruled Hulk was targeted due to his “ethnicity and skin color,” and handed Torpedo its third racism-related sanction of the season.
The sanction is likely to cover Russian Premier League matches next month against Terek Grozny and defending champion CSKA Moscow.
The sanction only comes into force after Torpedo’s home game on Sunday against Spartak Moscow, set to be one of its best-attended games of the season because Torpedo has been allowed to use Spartak’s larger stadium.
The RFU also fined Torpedo 300,000 rubles ($4,900).
It was the second time this season that Hulk has been racially abused in Russia. In September, Spartak Moscow fans were banned from one away league game because of monkey chants aimed at the Brazilian.
Zenit coach Andre Villas-Boas said Sunday’s incident was a “disaster” for the Russian Premier League, and would damage the image of the 2018 World Cup host.
“The insults, the racist insults to Hulk, they go around the world, and this is the image of the Russian Premier League,” Villas-Boas said.
Hulk said he was saddened by the incident.
“It’s impossible to understand, accept, or explain things like this,” he said.
“It’s not the first time I’ve encountered these kinds of incidents, but every time, again and again, I have to call for all players to be respected.”
In December, Hulk alleged he was racially abused by Russian referee Alexei Matyunin during a league game. The referee was cleared last month by an RFU panel, which ruled there was insufficient evidence.
Torpedo’s two previous racism incidents this season both resulted in the club being punished with partial stadium closes. Both cases involved monkey chants, with Dynamo Moscow’s Christopher Samba the victim in September, and FC Rostov’s African players targeted two months later.
The latest incident last Sunday came less than a month after a report by two anti-discrimination organizations found more than 200 cases of racist and discriminatory behavior linked to Russian soccer over two seasons.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter spoke out on racism in Russia following the publication of the report, telling The Associated Press “if it does not stop then there must be some sanctions.”
RFU general secretary Anatoly Vorobyov told The AP “not everything is going smoothly” in the fight against racism, and disciplinary measures were sometimes not used strongly enough.