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Infantino promises crackdown on racism in Russia World Cup

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Gianni Infantino

Moscow, April 17: FIFA President Gianni Infantino has vowed to crack down hard on racist incidents when Russia hosts the World Cup in June.

His statements follows the Russian decision to co-operate with a FIFA investigation into racist abuse directed at French players by Russian fans during a friendly last month.

"This is a very high priority and we will make sure no incidents will happen," Infantino said in a video statement.

"It is absolutely not tolerable and we will be very, very firm on that, so we can expect fair play in Russia.

"Infantino said the 2018 World Cup will be the first at which referees will be allowed to halt or even abandon matches should anything incidents of racism happens during matches.

"We expect fair play in Russia," he said.

Earlier, Alexei Smertin, the Russian Football Union's anti-discrimination inspector, said the game's global governing body had informed it about the launch of an investigation into the incident.

"The Russian Football Union is ready to take an active part in it (the FIFA probe) and is already conducting an internal investigation," Smertin said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

Smertin told a news conference later that the perpetrators of racist abuse should be punished.

"We're looking for the people who were shouting," he said. "They shouldn't be at football stadiums."

An Agency photographer at pitch level for France's 3-1 win over Russia in St Petersburg heard monkey chants directed at French players on several occasions, including when midfielder N'Golo Kante came to the sideline for a throw-in.

Russia has pledged to crack down on racism as the country faces increased scrutiny ahead of this year's World Cup, which it will host from June 14 to July 15 in 11 cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi.

There have been other reported cases of racist abuse, however, in the run-up to the tournament.

At CSKA Moscow's Europa League quarterfinal match against Arsenal last week, an Agency photographer heard monkey chants aimed at some of Arsenal's black players made by dozens of supporters.

CSKA dismissed incident and said in a statement that they were "outraged" by what they called a "slanderous" report.

European soccer's governing body, UEFA, had said last week that no racist behaviour had been reported to it by match officials at the game.

(With Agency inputs)

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    Story first published: Tuesday, April 17, 2018, 10:15 [IST]
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