Zenit St Petersburg claim matchday banner not racist attack on new signing Malcom
Banner unveiled at Russian Premier League game against Krasnodar which read "Thank you leadership for believing in tradition"
By Blake Welton
Last Updated: 05/08/19 5:11pm
Russian side Zenit St Petersburg have denied a banner shown during their weekend Russian Premier League game against Krasnodar was a racist slur against new signing Malcom.
The 22-year-old Brazilian joined the club for a reported £41m deal from Barcelona on a five-year deal last week, making his debut in Saturday's 1-1 home draw.
During the game, a banner was unveiled by fans which read: "Thank you leadership for believing in tradition".
However, the club have released a statement claiming it was not a sarcastic attack on the club's hierarchy at signing Malcom and instead have been "misinterpreted" by the media.
It read: "Zenit Football Club are aware a banner was revealed by a small number of individuals that read "Thank you leadership for believing in tradition" and that the meaning of this statement has been misrepresented in various parts of the media, and based on these misrepresentations, incorrect conclusions have been drawn that have no basis in reality."
The statement went on to cite the club's "long-standing tradition" of signing the best players regardless of background, ethnicity or nationality and that it had continually supported anti-racism inclusivity and equality initiatives.
Despite the country's success in hosting the 2018 World Cup, it is not the first time Russia have been accused of racism.
The country was fined £22,000 for racist chants in their friendly with France in May 2018 ahead of the World Cup while Zenit fans launched a campaign to stop their club buying black and gay players in 2012.