Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck were subjected to racist chants by the CSKA Moscow fans according to reliable reports.
A Reuters photographer, who was working pitchside, claimed to have heard ‘dozens of home supporters make monkey chants at Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi when they neared a particular section of the stands when the ball went out of play.’
The photographer also reported that the chants were heard when Welbeck scored Arsenal’s first goal of the game.
A third player – an unidentified Arsenal substitute, who did not come on to play – was also allegedly abused when he went out to warm up.
According to Reuters, UEFA confirmed that ‘no racist behaviour had been reported to it by the officials at the game’. The officials all hailed from Germany and any sort of charge could have spelled serious trouble for the Russians who are on probation for previous racist behaviour from their fans.
Arsenal declined to contact when pressed for comment by Reuters, as did the Russian Football Union and CSKA.
UEFA have, however, opened disciplinary proceedings over the CSKA fans’ use of flares during the game as well as other infractions that included blocking stairwells (a favourite charge of UEFA) and throwing objects.
This is not the first time the Russian club has faced accusations of racism from its fans. Or even the second.
They were charged in 2013 when Yaya Toure was subjected to the same sort of behaviour. Speaking in 2013, then-manager, Leonid Slutsky, said it had all been ‘very exaggerated’ and that there had been an ‘overreaction.’ “We are talking about our official position and it’s normal, as many other people, that we are against racism,” Slutsky said. “In our team we have black players and we love them and give them support.
“As for the match, we ourselves didn’t hear any racist slurs so it’s difficult to comment. What I can say is that the club is categorically against racism.
“We think the situation has been very exaggerated and there was an overreaction. We received our punishment and it was up to Uefa to discuss this situation and make the decision and we accept it.”
CSKA were also previously fined €30,000 for setting off fireworks against Red Star Belgrade during their match in February.
They were disciplined after their fans invaded the pitch against Basel in October last year as well as displaying an ‘illicit banner’ and setting off fireworks and throwing objects. They were fined €18,000.
Since 2004, UEFA have also:
- Suspended Roman Eremenko for two years after a positive doping result
- Fined CSKA €20,000 in 2015 after fans set off flares, blocked stairways and threw objects against Sporting Clube de Portugal
- Opened investigations in 2015 into CSKA’s FFP compliance
- Ordered CSKA to play three matches behind closed doors at the end of 2014, banned them from selling tickets to fans for two Champions League group games and fined them €200,000 for racist behaviour of fans. This was reduced on appeal despite UEFA saying ‘The fight against racism is a high priority for UEFA. The European governing body has a zero-tolerance policy towards racism and discrimination on the field and in the stands.’
- Placed CSKA on probation for five years due to the above offence, a probation that the club is still under.