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Zenit St. Petersburg goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeyev has reiterated
Zenit St. Petersburg goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeyev has reiterated that the far rightwing views of the club's supporters make it impossible for the 2008 UEFA Cup winners to have a black player in the side.

"Baffour Gyan [a Ghanaian forward] once had a trial with us and I realized then that in a team where the fans hold right-wing views, it is unrealistic to have players from the Dark Continent," Malafeyev told this week's Russian Futbol magazine. "I still think that for this reason Zenit can't have a dark-skinned player."

Zenit made international headlines last year ahead of their UEFA Cup final against Glasgow Rangers when Zenit's Dutch trainer Dick Advocaat reportedly gave an interview in which he said that the side's fans made it impossible for him to sign black players.

Zenit are the only major Russian side not to have had a black footballer.

Advocaat later said that he had been misquoted, and the club denied operating a racist selection policy. However, the accompanying dispute threatened to overshadow the match itself, which Zenit won 2-0.

Malafeyev also said that for him personally, a player's skin color was irrelevant. "The color of his skin, the amount of tattoos, pierced ears, navel or nipples, it makes no difference to me," he was quoted as saying by Futbol.

"Those people who consider Zenit a racist team should take into account that we have a lot of foreigners in the side," he added.

Players from South Korea, Turkey and Argentina turned out for Zenit last season, as well as a number of footballers from Eastern Europe.

Zenit captain Anatoliy Tymoshchuk also spoke out against racism at a UEFA-organized Unite Against Racism conference in Warsaw.

"We must not forget to show respect to players. It is of no importance what race the player is - what is important is what he can do on the pitch. We should show the utmost courtesy to people who live and play side-by-side with us," said Tymoshchuk, who is set to join German giants Bayern Munich this summer.

In a frank interview, Malafeyev also spoke about an encounter with a large group of aggressive Zenit fans at the side's training ground in 2002, a period during which the club could only dream of European success.

"It almost ended in a fight," he said, adding that the fans had sworn at them and said they cared more about the club than individual footballers. "The fans said, 'You lot come and go, but we are here forever.'"

"Lots of fans came [to the base], but they only let in exactly as many footballers as there were. In the end, the fans offered to fight us, saying 'whoever was stronger was right.'"

However Malafeyev said that the footballers, some of who were injured, eventually managed to avoid a brawl.

"I've never forgotten that meeting," he said. "You always remember bad things."

He also spoke of the hazing that had taken place in the team at the end of the 1990s.

"There were cases when people had their legs broken at training. This was considered normal back then, just like in the army. These days, soccer is a different game," he said.


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