Zenit St Petersburg reject statement from fans' group regarding the signing of players
Zenit St Petersburg have rejected a fans' statement regarding the signing of black and/or gay players.
Last Updated: 17/12/12 5:13pm
The Zenit fan movement Landskrona published a manifesto that stated: "We are not racists and for us the lack of black players at Zenit is just an important tradition, underlining the identity of the club."
It added the club "was never mentally linked with Africa, nor with South America or Australia or Oceania" and insisted that "black players are now being imposed on Zenit practically by force."
Furthermore, Landskrona revealed they stand "against representatives of sexual minorities playing for Zenit."
Zenit, which is owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom, responded by telling their supporters that players "join our team not because of their nationality and skin colour."
The club added: "The fight with various forms of intolerance is the only principle for the development of our club, football and sport in the whole world."
Former Zenit and Russia striker Alexander Panov echoed the club's stance, saying: "All clubs around the world have black players. If they are absent from Zenit - it's Zenit's problem. I don't think fans should demand the club buy or don't buy certain players. The fans have the right to go to the stadium or stay home."
Zenit manager Luciano Spalleti, although refraining from referring to the manifesto directly, was also quick to ally himself to the club in calling for tolerance towards diversity.
The Italian said: "Tolerance for me is the ability to understand and accept differences. Furthermore, being tolerant means that you fight against any kind of stupidity.
"I can personally assure you that I will do everything I can to help those who seek to explain what tolerance is, and the need to respect other cultures and traditions.
"The team has gathered players from different countries and ethnic groups who work together to achieve a common goal. Their combined efforts bring tangible results."
There have been rumours of division within the Zenit squad of late after the Russian giants splased out £60m on the Brazil forward Hulk and Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel.
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