Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak's comment on black players 'smells of racism'

By BBC MonitoringRussia
Pavel Pogrebnyak playing for Reading
Pavel Pogrebnyak played in England for Fulham and Reading

Former Fulham and Reading striker Pavel Pogrebnyak's comment that it is "laughable" to have black players in the Russian national team has been condemned by Russian president Vladimir Putin's human rights adviser.

Mikhail Fedotov, head of the presidential Human Rights Council, said the former Fulham and Russia striker's view "smelt of racism".external-link

"I believe that any football player who plays well and has Russian citizenship has a right to represent the Russian national side," Fedotov told the TV channel Moscow 360.

"The colour of their skin, eyes, hair and everything else has no significance. This should be obvious to anyone," Fedotov said.

Pogrebnyak told the tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravdaexternal-link he was opposed to the recent trend of non-Russian players receiving Russian passports and potentially going on to represent the country in international games.

He picked out the examples of Brazilian-born pair Mario Fernandes, who plays for CSKA Moscow, and Ariclenes da Silva Ferreira (Ari), who plays for Krasnodar.

"I don't see the point of this. I do not understand at all why Ari received a Russian passport," he said. "It is laughable when a black player represents the Russian national side.

"Mario Fernandes is a top player. But we also have Igor Smolnikov in his position. We could make do without foreigners as well."

Pogrebnyak's remarks could bring a 10-match ban, according to Russian website,external-link and the deputy anti-discrimination officer for the Russian Football Union has said it will be looking at possible punishment for the former international, who now plays in the Russian top flight for Ural Yekaterinburg.

Pogrebnyak has subsequently sought to clarify his comments, telling Sport24external-link that he has played abroad and respects "all players without exception".

"I do not have anything against black players," said Pogrebnyak , who also played for Stuttgart in Germany.

"In the interview I voiced my strictly personal opinion that in the Russian national side I would like to see footballers who were born and raised in our country. That is all. I did not mean to insult anyone."

The president of Ural Yekaterinburg, Grigory Ivanov, has said the team will stand by the 35-year-old, and claimed most Russian players would share his views.external-link

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