The Brazilian media has alleged that former Corinthians and Brazil star Roberto Carlos received racial abuse while featuring for new club Anzhi, in a defeat to Zenit St. Petersburg.
Roberto Carlos' team fell 2-0 away to the current Russian Premier League champions, coached by Italian Luciano Spalletti, at the weekend and are yet to record a win in the first two games of the 2011 campaign.
Controversy however was unleashed after the game, when a photo emerged of a Zenit fan apparently offering the left-back a banana as the two teams entered the field of play. Lance affirms that no further acts were witnessed in St. Petersburg, but maintains that the club's victory "was stained" by the discrimination.
"Before the games, the two captains enter at the front carrying a Russian flag. The photo was taken at the pitch entrance, but it still leaves journalists confused because in the game itself, there wasn't, I repeat wasn't any such incidents," Russian journalist Boris Bogdanov told Lance on Tuesday. Bogdanov also emphasised that there was some doubt over the malicious intentions of the fan.
"This photo is starting a strong discussion because it was taken at an unfavourable angle, we cannot know if the fan's intention was really to offend. There have been cases in St. Petersburg of fans throwing bananas on the field, but not during the Anzhi game."
Russian sides have suffered past problems with racism. UEFA threatened to throw Zenit out of the 2008 UEFA Cup following a home game against Marseille, after black players in the French team complained that they had received racist chants from the stands. Former coach Dick Advocaat has also stated in the past that he was unable to sign black footballers, because "the fans would not allow it," as reported by the Brazilian newspaper.
Neither Roberto Carlos nor a representative on Zenit has so far commented on the accusations.