The Russian Football Union (RFU) on Thursday toughened disciplinary measures for manifestations of racism after a fan threw a banana in the direction of Brazilian footballer Roberto Carlos.
The incident occurred on Wednesday in the central Russian city of Samara during a match between local club Krylya Sovetov and Anzhi Makhachkala, who are captained by former Real Madrid and Brazil defender Carlos. With a minute or two remaining and Anzhi leading 3-0, a banana landed on the grass near Carlos. The footballer took off the captain’s armband and left the field, refusing to finish the match.
“I am really upset by what happened,” Carlos said after the game. “It was a nasty surprise and I really hope that the Russian football authorities get to grips with this so that the person who did it is found and punished.”
“I am used to there being no racism in football. Russia should not be an exception,” said Carlos, who was embraced by players and his manager as he walked off.
The RFU immediately gathered a session to discuss the incident and as a result toughened the union’s regulations concerning manifestations of racism and Nazi symbolism.
The punishments now include a club playing up to three matches in front of an empty stadium or being forced to play a home game in another city.
The swift reaction from the Russian football authorities to the act of racism comes in the light of the country’s preparations to host the 2018 World Cup. The bid was briefly threatened last year when Lokomotiv Moscow fans unfurled a banner with a banana on it thanking West Bromich Albion for buying Nigerian international Peter Odemwingie.
The forward’s 15 English Premier League goals helped West Brom to a mid-table finish, but he had struggled during his three seasons in Moscow. Russian football officials denied the banner was racist, claiming it was a reference to a Soviet-era expression in which getting a banana meant receiving a bad mark in school.
Samara’s Krylya Sovetov football club condemned Wednesday’s incident and announced a reward of 50,000 rubles ($1,800) for any important information that would help identify the culprit.
The club’s authorities said they would “employ all efforts to find and punish the scumbag, who intimidated the brilliant and respected footballer, loved all around the world, including in our city.”
This is not the first time the 38-years-old Brazilian, who won the 2002 World Cup, has been subjected to an act of racism in Russia.
When Anzhi played Zenit St. Petersburg in March, a fan thrust a half-peeled banana at Carlos, who held the Russian flag ahead of the first game of the season at Zenit’s Petrovsky Stadium.
Following the incident, Zenit was fined some $10,500 and the fan received a life ban from the club’s games.