Respect heads east this week with Russian football back on the agenda for a variety of reasons.
Former Blackburn player Chris Samba was the latest to suffer at the hands of racists in the country which will host the World Cup Finals in 2018, with a banana thrown at the central defender during Anzhi Makhachkala’s 1-0 defeat at Lokomotiv Moscow.
The same fate has befallen fellow Anzhi player and Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos not once, but twice this season, and last week a man who confessed he was the guilty party during Anzhi’s 3-0 away win at Krylya Sovetov Samara in June, discovered he will not be punished because he has denied the act was racially motivated.
What should be most concerning, especially in the build up to 2018, is the fact that the authorities appear to be accepting his word and taking no further action, despite the incident resulting in a fine for Krylya Sovetov after it was ruled to be a racist gesture by the Russian football association and caused Carlos to walk off the pitch during the match .
With that in mind it seemed timely that UEFA this week made a promise to try and stamp out the abuse of professional footballers in Eastern Europe.
And the world players’ union FIFPro have been assured action will be taken on their dossier of cases of players being mistreated - the matter being discussed at UEFA’s annual Congress in Istanbul this week.
Complaints from players have included being subjected to threats, actual violence, and non-payment of salaries as well as being invited to take under the counter payments.
Last year former Montenegro international Nikola Nikezic said he was forced to end his contract with Russian Premier League club Kuban Krasnodar after being beaten up and threatened with a gun.
In November, Krasnodar striker Spartak Gogniyev had his ribs and nose broken during a match at Terek Grozny when he was attacked in the tunnel by men wearing police and Terek uniforms – Gogniyev then received a six-match ban for his troubles.
“In the coming three years FIFPro and UEFA will collaborate closely to tackle matters such as the non-payment of players’ salaries and to guarantee players’ contracts are respected,” said FIFPro in a statement.
“FIFPro and UEFA will also address other urgent problems such as match-fixing, violence towards players, racism and discrimination.”
The problem isn’t limited to the Russian game as late last year players of Croatian first division side FC Karlovac boycotted a match against FC Rijeka because they said they had not been paid for seven months.
Philippe Piat, president of FIFPro’s European division, said: “This is a good step on the road to better working conditions for professional footballers in Eastern Europe and naturally also for the rest of Europe.
“We’re not there yet but we have taken the first step. We are pleased UEFA and all affiliated football federations now finally acknowledge the problems that we described in the Black Book Eastern Europe.
“We are fully confident we will be successful in tackling this very urgent problem in the coming year. We will have to be patient, for the solution to these issues naturally requires time.”
UEFA president Michel Platini was happy to raise the issue during his address to the Congress.
“In some countries players sign or terminate contracts under pressure or threats. This cannot be tolerated. We must do more to protect the players, without whom there would be no football,” he said.
“Violence, match-fixing, illegal betting, doping, pressures and threats against players, flouting contracts, trafficking of young players, money laundering – these scourges exist.
“They exist in society and they exist in football. It is up to us to fight them, with the help of the public authorities. Let us protect the players, let us protect the game, let us clean up football.”
With the world expected to turn up to Russia in just six years, time is of the essence.
Tags: Anzhi Makhachkala, Chris Samba, Kryliya Sovetov Samara, Lokomotiv Moscow, RESPECT, Roberto Carlos, Russian Football