Hulk replaced at World Cup draw after comments on racism
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Brazilian striker Hulk was withdrawn from his role in this weekend’s 2018 World Cup draw, four days after saying racism was commonplace at his football games in Russia.
FIFA said Hulk was replaced due to “club commitments” with Zenit St. Petersburg, which visits Ural Yekaterinburg in the Russian Premier League on Sunday, a day after Saturday’s draw.
Alexei Sorokin, chief executive of Russia’s World Cup organizing committee, said the decision was unrelated to the Brazilian’s criticism of racism in Russian football.
“Hulk was among those who agreed to participate but very recently we found out that the coach of Zenit made a decision based on purely sporting reasons to withdraw this player from taking part in the draw show,” Sorokin said.
“Zenit has a game on Sunday in Yekaterinburg, so the coach made the decision that they need to leave together, not leaving anyone behind.”
The match has been on the schedule since at least June 30, long before Hulk was announced as a participant in the draw.
Hulk was replaced at the draw by former Russia midfielder Alexei Smertin.
Hulk, who joined Zenit from Porto three years ago, said on Monday that he feared racism could mar the World Cup.
“If it happens in the World Cup, it will be really gross, and really ugly. Usually it happens when Russian clubs play, and it doesn’t come out to the world, and the world doesn’t know about this,” he said through a translator.
“I must say that @ almost every game, I see this happening. I used to get angry, but now I see this doesn’t help, so I just send a kiss to our fans and try not to get angry.”