Former Fulham and Reading striker Pavel Pogrebnyak’s comment that it is”laughable” to possess black players at the Russian national team was condemned by Russian president Vladimir Putin’s human rights advisor.
Mikhail Fedotov, head of the presidential Human Rights Council, said that the former Fulham and Russia striker’s opinion “smelt of racism”.
“I think any football player that plays well and it has Russian citizenship includes a right to reflect the Russian domestic side,” Fedotov told the TV channel Moscow 360.
“the color of their eyes, skin, hair and everything else does not have any significance. This ought to really be obvious to anybody,” Fedotov said.
Pogrebnyak told the tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda he was compared to the recent fad of non-Russian players receiving Russian passports and potentially going on to represent the country in gambling matches.
He picked the types of Brazilian-born pair Mario Fernandes, that plays CSKA Moscow, also Ariclenes da Silva Ferreira (Ari), that plays Krasnodar.
“I really actually don’t see the point of this. I don’t really know at all why Ari received a Russian passport,” he said. “It’s foolish when a dark player represents the Russian national side.
“Mario Fernandes is actually a top player. But we have Igor Smolnikov in his position. We can make do without foreigners too.”
Pogrebnyak’s remarks could bring a 10-match ban, based to Russian website sports.ru, and the deputy anti-discrimination officer for its Russian Football Union has said it will probably be looking at potential punishment for its former international, who now plays in the Russian top flight for Ural Yekaterinburg.
Pogrebnyak has then sought to clarify his comments, telling Sport24 he has played abroad and respects”all players without exception”.
“I do not have anything against black players,” said Pogrebnyak, that played Stuttgart in Germany.
“In the interview I voiced my strictly personal opinion that in the Russian federal side I want to find footballers that were raised and born in our country. That’s really all. I didn’t mean to insult anybody .”
The president of Ural Yekaterinburg, Grigory Ivanov, has said that the team will stand by the 35-year-old, also maintained nearly all Russian players would talk about his perspectives.