We are Russia – United Against Discrimination

Zotov, Canner, Shirokov and Smertin at the project launch

Zotov, Canner, Shirokov and Smertin at the project launch

Today, March 21st, is the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. March 21st 2017 is the day when Russian football took a leap forward and begun the drive to ensure that sports will be fight all forms of discrimination, in sports and society. It is a big though much needed task. The “We Are Russia Against Discrimination” #WeareRussia #AgainstDiscrimination project was launched, bringing together 3 driven entities.

A project to fight Racism and Discrimination in Football has been launched in Russia

On the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 21st), a nationwide project “#WeareRussia #AgainstDiscrimination” was launched in Moscow. The project will fight racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Russian Football.

Roman Shirokov, President of the All-Russian Footballer Players Union, and Yuri Kanner, President of the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC), signed a memorandum on cooperation to implement the project. The signing took place in the presence of Alexei Smertin, the Russian Football Union Inspector to combat racism and discrimination in football.

The document provides for joint activities to combat instances of discrimination, xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism in Russian football, as well as the assistance of the RJC in the implementation of the project “#WeareRussia #AgainstDiscrimination”.

The first stage of the project is planned for 2017-2018, which includes the FIFA Confederations Cup (2017) and World Cup (2018). “#WeareRussia #Against Discrimination”, in the course of the project, will: Conduct large-scale sociological research in Moscow and Russian regions; Train specialists to prevent inter-ethnic conflicts in sport; Develop teaching materials and educational programs for schools and universities; Monitor sport for instances of xenophobia; Work with supporter groups; Carry out educational activities – from organizing conferences to producing TV programs and documentaries.

That’s the official part, so if you’re reading down here you must be interested in a) Football, b) Sport, c) Russia and d) Being a decent human being. Now I’ve praised you for getting this far, what does it all mean?

Who are they?

We’ve had the plight of Russian footballers on here many times and the efforts being made from grassroots up and top table down to improve their conditions. The All-Russian Football Players Union (ARFPU) led by President Roman Shirokov and CEO Alexander Zotov, have won the respect of the RFU, clubs and players with their hard work and transparency. Left inexplicably outside the FIFPro camp, yet embraced by FIFA, the Union pushed for an all-inclusive project that would have far reaching and long lasting benefits for Russian football and society. Short term thinking was never an issue as everybody associated with the project knows that the examples from abroad are still works in progress. Racism and discrimination still exist in English football 30 years after John Barnes was backheeling bananas off the pitch. Yet English stadia and society is a long way from where they were in the 1980’s.

Representing the RFU, Alexei Smertin, former Russian Captain and friend of Damien Duff, made sure that there was blanket support from the football community. With their support the project was designed to go beyond the FIFA Confederations and World Cups, and on to 2020. And in doing so they immediately attracted the 3rd entity that ensured the whole of Russian society will benefit.

The Russian Jewish Congress (RJC) has been a leading light in increasing understanding and dialogue between ethnic groups since 1996 in Russia and were natural partners. With over 20 years of experience in bridge building, educational programs and developing national and international social projects, the RJC will be an ideal support to increase the impact of the project.

A Tuesday Morning Fly?

This morning began with mischief from British media again. Regurgitating the mockumentary “Russia’s Hooligan Army”, the Daily Star cashed in internet trends with an appalling piece of click bait journalism. “Russian fans vow to ‘beat England fans to death'” was the headline.

But why now? Because the Guardian were running a piece on Russian money being laundered through Moldova, Latvia and Britain, and the Russophobia on show in the US congressional hearings yesterday. Profiting from fear is nothing new or unusual for media (Russian media stands as guilty as any for doing so), yet like Stockley’s hoolie porn piece, dissected on these and other pages, it was doomed to fail. Because the beautiful thing about football, and sports, is that they bring people together and this interaction makes life just that little bit easier for us all.

We are Russia against Discrimination

The #Gentlefan success of a fortnight ago was he clearest view yet on how well football fans can get along. We know this to be true. On Saturday, while exhibiting Gaelic Football skills at the Lokomotiv – Spartak derby, Loko and Spartak fans lined up together to try Ireland’s National Sport. Jokes flowed, match predictions were given and the festive atmosphere at Cherkizovo was what football and sports should be – community. No racism, no xenophobia and no discrimination.

The #WeareRussia #AgainstDiscrimination project will not just be based on re-educating that pitiful minority who believe that attacking others to make up for their own inadequacies, it goes far beyond them. It goes into schools, universities and sports clubs. It is piggybacking on the Greatest Show on Earth (tm FIFA), and its trial run this Summer, to create a real spirit of openness and understanding that will showcase the nearly 200 nationalities living in Russia to the World, and most importantly, to Russia!

A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. This is Russia’s first step and we need to join them on their journey, not build barriers to satisfy our prejudices and fears.

Author: Alan Moore

A Russia-based Sports Journalist and Consultant, worked with major sports clubs including:- Spartak Moscow, Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt. Boxed Internationally, played semi-pro football and I worked full-time in sports management/consultancy from 2003-13.

First published professionally on football in 1990, first Russian league match in 1991, now Hosting Capital Sports on Capital FM, Moscow and writing the odd article.


  1. Yury Boychenko says:

    Very good and needed initiative! I would just add that it is not the first step. A number of activities have been implemented in Russia to address the issue of racism and discrimination in football, which brought together authorities, clubs and fans, including with support of the UN Office of the High Commisionet for Human Rights. It is important to consolidate efforts of various actors and achieve the common goal- discrimination free invironment.

Leave a Reply