Russia’s World Cup marred by racist tendencies: Here’s a list of what to watch out for

17 Mar 2018


FIFA’s promise to tackle with rigour all forms of discrimination, like racism, antisemitism, islamophobia, homophobia, sexism, is going to be tested during the 2018 World Cup tournament in Russia.

Russia and the entire eastern European region is known to be the hot bed of discriminatory practices in and around the game of football. Recent news, including social media official messages with racial undertones from Russian clubs like Spartak Moscow and racist chants against black players show that Vladimir Putin’s country is seriously struggling to cleanse its football from racist tendencies.

As part of a campaign to highlight the problem and monitor FIFA’s performance in dealing with discrimination ProBonoMatters’ has been digging from FIFA’s Global Guide to Discriminatory Practices in Football which amongst other things identifies and defines common discriminatory expressions and practices.

In this edition we are highlighting extract from a chapter that focuses on discriminatory practices in the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) which is in many ways the capital of bigotry as experienced in football. This is offcourse a reflection of a deeper societal.

Here follows some lightly edited extracts from the Global Guide to Discriminatory Practices in Football which was compiled by the Fare Network.

Discriminatory practices displayed in European football include verbal and symbolic abuse of black and ethnic minority players and fans, the display of far-right and neo-Nazi symbols, homophobic and sexist abuse. In addition, anti-Semitic and more recently Islamophobic and anti-refugee displays, have been on the rise throughout the region and in Central and Eastern Europe in particular.

Commonly displayed  discriminatory practices

Practices, signs and symbols recorded on display at football matches in multiple countries in the region include:

Anti-Roma chanting – “Gypsy” (“Tsigani”/ “Cigani”)

Discriminatory practice commonly displayed especially in Central and Eastern Europe where fans chant “Gypsy” (“Tsigani”) towards players on the pitch or directed at the referee, attributing to them negative characteristics as part of the xenophobic stereotype about Roma people. Examples include when a referee is booking a player with a yellow/ red card and or when players commit or suffer a foul.

Anti-Semitic chanting –  “Jews/Jude”

Calling opponent team supporters “Jews” is commonly used by far-right groups in Europe as a means of causing offence.  It reflects an anti-Semitic worldview which inflicts xenophobic stereotypes about Jewish people onto fans of the opposing team.

Hissing noises

As a form of anti-Semitic abuse, groups of fans may make a hissing noise to imitate the gas chambers of the Holocaust.

Monkey noises, gestures

Group of fans tend to imitate monkey noises or gestures targeting black players on the pitch.

Nazi salute/Hitler salute

The gesture of extending the right arm from the chest or neck into the air with a straightened hand refers to a greeting used in Nazi Germany. The gesture may be accompanied by chanting “Sieg Heil” (in English: “Hail victory!”). Often used by far-right groups in football when the national anthem is performed before the match or generally throughout the game.

Quenelle gesture

The quenelle is an anti-Semitic gesture originating in France performed by pointing one arm diagonally downwards palm down, while touching the shoulder or elbow with the opposite hand. The gesture is often referred to as a “reverse Nazi salute”.

Offering a banana to a black or ethnic minority player

This is a racist practice comparing black players to monkeys. Bananas or banana skins may be thrown onto the pitch towards a black or ethnic minority player.

The UEFA region is also infested by a number of far-right groups that have established a presence amongst football fans. They use football matches for propaganda and to project their discriminatory views including:


The swastika was the official emblem of the National Socialist Party of Germany (NSDAP).

Celtic Cross

The Celtic Cross is a symbol used by neoNazis worldwide and denotes “the supremacy of the white race”. It is one of the most widely used racist symbols. In football stadiums, it often appears on banners, signs, scarves or stickers.

Ku Klux Klan (KKK)

Racists and neo-Nazis may use different symbols of militant organisations in other countries, such as the Ku Klux Klan in the USA. The KKK logo consists of a white cross within a red circle, and a drop of blood in the centre. Parts of the characteristic white KKK costume with pointed hoods are sometimes worn.

White Power/White Pride

The slogans “White Power” and “White Pride” are used as terms to denote the “supremacy of the white race”. The right white fist is a symbol of the international racist white power movement.


The cogwheel is used by some racist and neo-Nazi groups because it was the symbol of the “Deutsche Arbeitsfront”, a paramilitary institution during German National Socialism. The cogwheel can contain a number of different signs in its middle.

 SS Adolf Hitler Division (LSSAH)

Symbols of a German Nazi SS Adolf Hitler Division can appear inside stadiums on banners or scarves. This version of the shield is sometimes used in combination with club symbols or other far right symbols instead of a key.

SS Division “Dirlewanger”

This is an emblem of a German Nazi SS Division active in the World War II. The symbol has appeared on banners of some far-right groups in Eastern Europe.

“Bergmann” Battalion

German Nazi battalion during World War II composed of Caucasian volunteers.


The Triskele has an angular design, similar to the Swastika though only with three arms.  It is also the symbol of the “Blood & Honour” movement and sometimes appears in a circular design.

Blood & Honour

“Blood & Honour” (B&H) is an international network of neo-Nazi skinheads, founded by Skrewdriver frontman Ian Stuart Donaldson. Sections of B&H can be found in almost all European countries. “Blood & Honour” was the slogan engraved on the knives of the “Hitler Youth”. B&H uses the Triskele as one of their main symbols. Banners fashioned in a similar design to the B&H logo have been seen in stadiums across Europe.

Misanthropic Division

This is an international paramilitary neo-Nazi network originating in Eastern Europe, now with an international presence.

Hammer & Sword

The crossed Hammer & Sword was a symbol of the “national community” of soldiers and workers used by the German Hitler Youth.


Hammerskins is a paramilitary network of neo-Nazi skinheads operating in many countries. Their symbol consists of two crossed hammers which represents the “white working man”. Sometimes crossed hammers feature in the emblems of clubs and do not have far-right connotations.

SS-Totenkopf Skull

The SS-Totenkopf skull was a symbol of special SS groups during World War II (“SS Totenkopfverbände”) and was later used by groups such as Combat 18, an international neo-Nazi terrorist organisation. The SS skull is one of the most commonly displayed neo-Nazi symbols and is often seen on banners, clothing and stickers.

Reichskriegsflagge (War flag of the German Empire)

The war flag of the German Empire, used from 1867-1921, symbolises a desire to return to pre-democratic times. Football fans often replace the original colours with the colours of their club. The club’s badge sometimes replaces the eagle in the centre of the flag.

Reichskriegsflagge  (War flag of Germany under National-Socialism)

War flags used by the German army during National Socialism between 1933 and 1945.

Reichsadler (Eagle of the Nazis)

The “Reichsadler” was an emblem used in Nazi Germany between 1935 and 1945 and was often combined with a swastika or other symbol in the circle to symbolise different divisions and groups. Nowadays the swastika is often replaced by a Celtic Cross or similar symbol. Football fans also use the former “Reichsadler” emblem in combination with their football club badge.

Black Sun

The Black Sun represents a swastika with twelve arms or a wheel made of twelve Sig-runes. It was used by the SS (“Schutzstaffel”, the security squadron of the Nazis) as a Nordic pagan symbol of religion and is often used as an alternative to the swastika.

Confederate flag

Although the flag is used in a variety of contexts outside the stadiums, it has been appropriated by far-right football fans and is often displayed to convey racist messages.

SA Badge

The badge of the SA (“Sturmabteilung”), a paramilitary wing of the Nazi party NSDAP, represents a combination of the Sig-rune and the letter “A”.

References to “Aryan” heritage or “white only”

Messages grounded on belief of the superiority of the “white race” are displayed widely among far-right groups on their banners. Often they are combined with a Confederate flag.

Good Night Left Side

This symbol openly promotes neo-Nazi violence against imagined political opponents. The image in the middle varies but it always portrays a scene of violence.

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