Moscow (AFP) – Russian football authorities on Thursday downplayed a banana-throwing incident at the Champions League match between Rostov and PSV Eindhoven, despite it coming as the club served a punishment for racist abuse.
The problem of widespread racism in Russian football is under the microscope as the country gears up to host the 2018 World Cup and the authorities are often accused of turning a blind eye to the issue.
Television footage from the 2-2 draw in the World Cup host city showed a banana thrown onto the pitch mid-way through the first half, R-Sport news agency reported.
The game was already being played in a partially closed stadium after European governing body UEFA sanctioned Rostov for fan racism at a home game against Dutch side Ajax in August.
“I think the incident in Rostov is unique and that this will not repeat itself in the future,” Alexei Sorokin, the head of Russia’s World Cup organising committee, told TASS news agency.
“We follow this issue along with the Russian Football Union (RFU) but it is obviously impossible to screen every person in the stands.”
It remains unclear if any disciplinary measures will be taken.
FIFA came under fire this week for disbanding its racism task force after claiming the body’s mission had been accomplished.
FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura said Monday that Russian authorities had been “very receptive to diversity and battling discrimination” in talks she had with them.
Racist incidents — including insults and monkey chants — are commonplace at football matches in Russia and a string of other European countries.