Yaya Touré’s warns of Russian World Cup boycott
Midfielder’s Ivory Coast team-mate Seydou Doumba says compatriot’s claims of racism clearly exaggerated
Aleksei Berezutski (left) of PFC CSKA Moscow in action against Yaya Toure of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League Group D match at the Arena Khimki Stadium. Photograph: Epsilon/Getty Images.
Yaya Touré has warned Russia that players will boycott the 2018 World Cup finals if the country fails to adopt stringent measures to stamp out racism. Speaking after he alleged he was racially abused by a section of CSKA Moscow supporters during Wednesday night’s Champions League game at the Khimki Arena, the Manchester City midfielder urged the country to take responsibility and deal with behaviour that he described as “unbelievable”.
The Ivorian’s comments increase the pressure on Fifa, as well as Uefa, to bring Russia into line and impose tougher sanctions on clubs that fail to combat racism. Touré claimed that he was racially abused “a few times” by “groups” of supporters, rather than a handful of individuals.
Uefa, after going through the report submitted by the referee, Ovidiu Hategan of Romania, and the match delegate, has confirmed that disciplinary proceedings have been opened against CSKA “for racist behaviour of their fans”, as well as for setting off fireworks, during City’s 2-1 win in the Russian capital.
CSKA, however, have risked inflaming an emotive issue and seriously damaging relations between the two clubs by expressing their disappointment at the allegations made by Touré and City officials and categorically denying that any racist abuse took place. The Russian club released an extraordinary statement in which Seydou Doumbia, CSKA’s Ivorian striker, accused Touré, an international team-mate, of “clearly exaggerating”.
Touré said he was “furious” after the match and it is a measure of how strongly the former Barcelona midfielder feels about the issue of racism in Russian football that he went as far as to suggest that players would refuse to take part in the World Cup finals in five years’ time, unless the country cleans up its act.
Asked whether Russia needs to address the problem of racism before they host the World Cup, Touré replied: “Of course they do. It’s very important. Otherwise if we are not confident coming to the World Cup in Russia, we don’t come.” Fifa and Uefa declined to comment on Touré’s remarks.
CSKA, though, have denied wrongdoing. Their statement said: “Having carefully studied the video of the game, we found no racist insults from fans of CSKA. In many occasions, especially during attacks on our goal, fans booed and whistled to put pressure on rival players, but regardless of their race.
“In particular, this happened with Álvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko. Why the Ivorian midfielder took it as all being directed at him is not clear.”
Doumbia was quoted as saying: “I didn’t hear anything like that (racist abuse)from the CSKA fans. Yes, they’re always noisy in supporting the team, and try to put as much pressure as possible on our opponents, but they wouldn’t ever allow themselves to come out with racist chants. So my Ivory Coast colleague is clearly exaggerating.”
CSKA’s response has gone down particularly badly at City, who have no shortage of witnesses from outside as well as inside the club willing to back up Touré’s allegations. Touré, who was City’s captain in Moscow in the absence of the injured Vincent Kompany, made it clear that it was not a one-off incident on Wednesday night. “It was a few times, when I went into the goal area. I tried to score a goal and missed it, but some fans reacted,” the 30-year-old said. “I know we have the fight against racism, but we are not kids and we have to stop it now. have to react. I want to stop this. It is always the same. I am unhappy because the reaction of the fans was unbelievable.