FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Russia just two months before the country hosts the World Cup over allegations f fan racism during a friendly with France last month.
French players, including Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and FC Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele, were the victim of alleged racist chants from supporters attending last month’s match in Saint Petersburg.
They were subjected to monkey taunts at the friendly, which France won 3-1.
“Disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the Russian Football Union (RFU) for this incident,” FIFA said in a statement.
In response, the RFU claimed an investigation had already been launched in an effort to identify the people involved.
“A request has been made to the Interior Ministry to identify several persons who were involved in these incidents,” RFU anti-discrimination officer and former Russian international Alexey Smertin told Russia’s official state news agency TASS.
“If these people’s guilt is proven, then there’s a high likelihood they won’t be allowed to attend World Cup and Russian league games.
It marked the latest racist incident at the Saint-Petersburg Stadium, due to host a World Cup semi-final.
Zenit St. Petersburg has twice faced charges from European football’s governing body UEFA as a result of racism from fans during matches in the Europa League, the second-tier club competition on the continent.
The club were sanctioned after its fans displayed a large banner praising Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladic at a match against Macedonian Vardar in November.
In February, chants mocking a black player were audible from sections of the Zenit crowd during a game with German club RB Leipzig.
Last year, Spartak Moscow and rivals Dynamo Moscow were both fined by the RFU for racist behaviour from their fans.
Racism remains one of the key concerns in the build-up to the tournament owing to the World Cup host country’s poor record.
Russian fans have been charged with racism offences at the previous two UEFA European Championships.
Referees have been given the power by FIFA to halt or abandon matches at the World Cup, due to begin with the opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia in Moscow on June 14, for discriminatory incidents.
Inside The Games News.