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Malcom greeted with controversial banner as Zenit fans accused of racism

22:08 EAT 04/08/2019
Malcom Barcelona 2018-19
The former Barcelona man made his debut in Russia on Saturday but sections of the club's support questioned the signing of a black player

Malcom has been greeted at new club Zenit St. Petersburg by a banner that has been deemed to be racist.

The Brazil international swapped Barcelona for Russiathis week in a €39 million (£36m/$44m) deal, and made his Zenit debut on Saturday in a 1-1 draw with Krasnodar, during which a section of the supporters took the opportunity to sarcastically applaud their team’s adherence to what they view as a traditional refusal to sign black players.

A banner, which was photographed by sports.ruwas revealed in the stands that read: “Thank you leadership for loyalty to traditions.”

The display was in keeping with a manifesto posted on the internet by the club's Landskrona supporter’s group.

The fans statement insisted they were not racist, but that the imposition of black players would inevitably cause a backlash.

“We are not racist,” the manifesto said, “and for us the absence of black players is just an important tradition, empahasising the identity of the club and nothing more.

“We, as the northernmost club of the major European cities, have never been mentally connected with Africa, however, as with South America or Australia or Oceania.

“We have absolutely nothing against the inhabitants of these or any other continents, but at the same time we want players who are close in spirit to speak for Zenit.

“Now, black players for Zenit are being forced almost by force, and this causes only backlash. Let us be what we are.”

Malcom was born in Sao Paulo, in Brazil, where he played for Corinthians before making the move to French club Bordeaux in 2016.

He played two seasons in Ligue 1 racking up 20 goals in 84 appearances, before Barcelona swooped last summer.

He had a difficult time in his lone season in Catalunya, playing only 15 times in all competitions and netting just once.

He found himself surplus to requirements at Camp Nou after they signed Antoine Griezmann to augment their attacking options.

He opted to move to Russia, where he joined fellow Brazilian Douglas Santos, another player of colour who joined the club this summer, along with Colombian Wilmar Barrios.