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© RIA Novosti. Alexey Danichev

Zenit free to sign black players - coach

by R-Sport at 13/02/2013 16:07

Zenit St. Petersburg's manager Luciano Spalletti denied Wednesday that racist fans prevent him from signing black players.
The Russian champions are the only major team in the country never to have signed a player from Africa, and the issue was thrust into the spotlight in December when the Landscrona fan group published a manifesto demanding a ban on black and gay players.
"I have absolutely no limits on signing players and the club has never put anything like that in place," Spalletti said, stressing that the team already contained players of mixed-race heritage.
"We've signed players like Hulk, Bruno Alves and [Axel] Witsel, and I don't know what category you want to put them in, we don't have any problems like that."
Former Zenit manager Dick Advocaat once said the team's fans had stopped him signing black players.
But the Landscrona group are wrong and Zenit's public image as a racist club is undeserved, the Italian added.
"The opinion of the group of fans who published this documents is wrong," he said. "Zenit is a team that's open to all. It's the absolute contradiction of what people say about us
Zenit host Liverpool on Thursday in the last 32 of the Europa League. Liverpool will warn their players they may face racist abuse at the game, managing director Ian Ayre has said.
"We do plan to speak to the players about it," he said on the team website, and suggested Liverpool would not encourage players to leave the pitch if racially abused, but rather to consult the referee.
"The referee would be at the forefront of that if there's something on the pitch. Anything that happens off the pitch, then we'll work very closely with the authorities," he said.
Liverpool have written to Zenit and UEFA expressing their concerns, Ayre added.

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