At the request of French sports minister Laura Flessel
, FIFA is investigating reports that fans targeted French stars Ousmane Dembele
and Paul Pogba
with monkey chants during the
Bleus' 3-1 friendly victory over Russia in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
Flessel asked for "European and international" action after fans imitating ape noises could be heard by photographers
on the field.
Authorities have been slow to accept that the World Cup host has a problem with racism, but the anti-discrimination inspector Alexei Smertin
, a former Russian
international, said a Russian federation probe was already underway.
As recently as three years ago, the former Chelsea midfielder told the BBC that "there’s no racism in Russia
because it doesn’t exist."
Racist chants and problems with right-wing fans have been a problem in Russian club soccer for two decades after teams began to import players from Africa
and Latin America.
Brazilian great Roberto Carlos
walked off the field after a banana was thrown at him in 2011 and countryman Hulk
complained that no one was addressing the
problems -- neither referees or federation officials -- after another incident in 2015.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino
said that his organization will take a hard-line approach to
racism at the World Cup, promising to stop games if problems arise.