I didn’t hear any racist chanting, and, I think, neither did anyone else in the media seats, but then it only takes a small group on the far side of the pitch. I have no reason to doubt Yaya Toure’s account - he’d understand what was being sung, since he speaks pretty good Russian, the legacy of his two years with Metalurg Donetsk.
With the racism and the utterly awful pitch dominating the agenda, last night set an awful example for Russian football. The playing surface was partly made of sand, painted green in places, but they couldn’t even do that right - it was a different shade of green from the grass. It followed CSKA having to play Viktoria Plzen in St. Petersburg this month because the Russian capital (a city of 11 million!) didn’t have a suitable pitch.
Racism is still treated softly in Russia. I remember one case when police caught a guy who threw a banana at Roberto Carlos, paraded him in front of the cameras and then admitted they were letting him go because what he did didn’t actually break Russian law.
To illustrate it another way - in March last year, I was watching a second-tier game in the bitter cold. In front of me, a father was teaching his five-year-old son to roll snowballs and throw them at the one black player on the pitch, saying: “Come on, son, hit the n*****!”*
On the last day of last season, that same black player, Dacosta Goore, was at the same ground, this time playing against Spartak Moscow, probably Russia’s best supported team. Goore was pelted with racist abuse from the start. Six minutes in, he snapped and showed the Spartak fans the middle finger. He was sent off and banned for two matches, while Spartak were fined a paltry $15,000 - one of the few instances where the FA explicitly admitted it was racist abuse rather than standard “offensive chanting” where the max fine is $6,000.
The one positive thing to come out of CSKA-Man City? Toure’s statement about black players in 2018: “If we aren't confident at the World Cup, coming to Russia, we don't come.”A boycott is hugely unlikely, but the very possibility of black players refusing to play at Russia 2018 is just about the only thing that could jolt the Russian government into action on racism.
*I know the account from that first match seems like a cliche. It really did happen - Torpedo Moscow v Alania Vladikavkaz at the Streltsov. Ex-Watford striker Tamas Priskin scored the winner.