MOSCOW, April 16. /TASS/. The Russian Football Union (RFU) has been notified by the world’s governing football body, FIFA, about a probe into earlier reports on racist chants during Russia-France friendly football match last month in St. Petersburg, an RFU official said in a statement on Monday.
French sports website Topmercato.com reported late last month that racist chants were heard to be yelled during the friendly match in Russia’s second largest city of St. Petersburg on March 27 and they were addressed against French national team’s players Paul Pogba and Ousmane Dembele.
"The FIFA has informed the Russian Football Union that it launched an investigation into reported racist chants from spectators’ stands during a friendly football match between the national teams of Russia and France on March 27 in St. Petersburg," Alexei Smertin, the RFU’s anti-racism and discrimination inspector, said in his statement.
"The RFU is ready to take a full-fledge participation in this probe and has already launched an interior investigation," Smertin said. "Relevant inquiries were filed with the (Russian) Interior Ministry requesting help to identify a group of individuals, who could be involved in the incident."
"If the suspects at the issue are found guilty, they will all be barred from all matches of the World Cup as well as from all matches of the Russian football championship," Smertin said.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko told TASS that the Russian football authorities would fully cooperate with the FIFA to establish reported acts of racist chants during the friendly match between Russia and France.
"We are ready to cooperate with FIFA as Russia has never supported racism," Mutko said in an interview with TASS. "We have very strict regulations in football, new arenas are equipped with all the necessary video surveillance systems and we are able to record and identify everyone."
"The work on the issue is underway, we have turned for assistance to law enforcement bodies and are cooperating with the FIFA, therefore all responsible will be punished after the facts are established," Mutko added.
The French national team defeated Russia 3-1 in a friendly football match held on March 27 at a stadium in Russia’s St. Petersburg, which is one of 11 cities across the country selected to host matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The goals for France were scored by Kylian Mbappe (40th and 83rd minutes) and Paul Pogba (49th minute). Hosts Russia scored once and it was a goal from Fedor Smolov (68th minute).
Security and fans behavior before, during and after football matches are in particular focus of the Russian football authorities as the country is now on the final stretch of hosting this summer the world football championship.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off in 58 days with the opening match in the Russian capital of Moscow.
Russia selected 11 host cities to be the venues for the matches of the 2018 World Cup and they are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.
The matches of the 2018 World Cup will be held between June 14 and July 15 at 12 stadiums located in the 11 mentioned above cities across Russia. Two of the stadiums are located in the Russian capital.