Zenit St. Petersburg’s largest supporters’ group has published a manifesto to its Web site demanding that the club not sign any black or gay players. The Russian Premier League champion is the only top club in the league that has never signed an African player. In fact, media reports claim that several well-known black players have turned down lucrative offers to join Zenit because of threats from fans.
"We're not racists but we see the absence of black players at Zenit as an important tradition," the Landscrona group’s "Selection 12 manifesto" read. "It would allow Zenit to maintain the national identity of the club, which is the symbol of St. Petersburg." The organization added that it only wanted to see "players from other brotherly Slav nations, such as Ukraine and Belarus, as well as from the Baltic states and Scandinavia", because St. Petersburg shares "the same mentality and historical and cultural background as these nations". The group added that it did not want to see "sexual minorities" in the team, either.
Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti responded to the Landscrona group’s manifesto by emphasizing the importance of tolerance in a global game like soccer. "Tolerance for me is the ability to understand and accept differences," Spalletti told Zenit's official website. "Furthermore, being tolerant means that you fight against any kind of stupidity. ... The team has gathered players from different countries and ethnic groups who work together to achieve a common goal. Their combined efforts bring tangible results."