Russia soccer squad not diverse enough lol

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
While there is a splash of ethnic diversity on virtually every team playing in soccer's 2018 Russia World Cup, many cite the Swiss national team for setting the standard for being multicultural.

Known affectionally by its fans in Switzerland as "the Nati," 14 of the 23 members of the Swiss team were either born outside of Switzerland or are "secondos" -- a word used by the Swiss to denote the offspring of immigrants.

Switzerland is not the only team that came to the World Cup in Russia with a sizable portion of players from the country's migrant or ethnic minority communities.

More than three-quarters of France's team (18 players) are from the country's varied communities of immigrants, while the Belgians have 11 such players, England 10, and Germany six.

Foreigners Not Wanted

But despite having millions of immigrants -- mostly from Central Asian countries Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan but large numbers also from Ukraine and Moldova -- the team representing World Cup host Russia is overwhelmingly made up of ethnic Russians and a few titular nationalities, such as Ossetians, from the country's vast array of ethnic groups.

And besides naturalized Brazilian Mario Fernandes and a few players whose parents came from Ukraine and Belarus when they belonged to the Soviet Union, the Russian team is bereft of non-Russian players.

"Russia, of course, isn't exactly a haven for immigrants from outside the former Soviet Union, and has major issues integrating those [migrants from former Soviet republics] into the mainstream of society," Slava Malamud, U.S.-based columnist for Moscow's Sovetsky Sport, told RFE/RL. "So it's not a surprise the [Russian] national team is much less diverse than most European countries."

Malamud noted that Peter Odemwingie -- the son of Nigerian immigrants who was born and raised in Russia -- refused to play for Russia several years ago, opting instead to play for Nigeria.

Many of the millions of migrants living in Russia have social and economic hurdles that often prevent them from participating in sports, he said. Many work in lower-wage construction jobs and aren't considered full members of society.

"They live in the margins, not truly accepted and mostly tolerated at best," Malamud said. "Their socioeconomic situation isn't conducive to having their children participate in organized sports, and most of them would not be able to get Russian citizenship."

And he suggested that racism also plays a role in the absence of minorities on Russia's team.

"Many Russians tend to view diversity of European squads such as France, Germany, England, and Switzerland as a sign of the corresponding nations' weakness and the erosion of traditional cultures," Malamud said.

He said there's a common perception in Russia: "Europe is dying under the hordes of invading barbarians."

"It's basically a part of the country's official ideology," he said.

For example, Zenit Saint Petersburg, one of the country's top clubs until recently, had an unofficial policy to "not sign black players because their fan base was staunchly against it," he said.

"For a while, there was a big banner at the Zenit stadium stating, 'Black is not one of our colors,'" he said.

In 2012, the club's largest fan club demanded an all-white, heterosexual team, saying "dark-skinned players are all but forced down Zenit's throat now, which only brings out a negative reaction."

The European soccer federation, UEFA, earlier this month announced fines against Zenit for fans chanting racist chants during a Europa League match against the German club Leipzig, reportedly singing a song with the words "Kill The [Blacks]" during the March match.

But Russia isn’t the only team at the World Cup with a substantial immigrant/refugee community that lacks diversity on its national team: Spain, Sweden, Denmark, and Iran are among some of the other national squads with very little minority representation.

Likewise, the national teams from former Yugoslav republics -- Serbia and Croatia in this World Cup -- are virtually entirely made up of Serbs and Croats, respectively.
Russia's World Cup Team Bucks Multiethnicity Seen On Swiss, Other Teams

Well, it's true, a terribly diverse team, it ain't

The Ossetian is Alan Dzagoev

a highly gifted player, a childhood prodigy, in fact, pretty much
but, unfortunately, he bowed out early from the World Cup this time, due to injury, having torn a hip muscle during the first game, with the Saudis

He was sorely missed, but they made do without him, though, even beat Spain hehe

The Brazilian-turned-Russian Mario Fernandes certainly helped with that lol

He didn't score any of Russia's goals though. Defense was his main thing, I believe.

Anyway, honestly, I must say, while, yes, the soccer squad lacks diversity, Russian sport overall is far more complex.

I'd say that the soccer fans over here ARE more racist and xenophobic than others. It's true.

Basketball fans had no problem with two black guys playing on the Russian team in Beijing Olympics in 2008

(Younger one is Viktor Keyru, son of Russian mother and African father; other one is some American who got Russian citizenship)

And Viktor's little sis, Katya Keyru, has played for the women's team

Again, nobody had an issue with it.

And in curling, half-Russian half-Nigerian Nkeirouka Esekh is arguably the hottest woman ever to play for Russia (to be fair, that's not really a long time yet lol The sport has only been known there for a few years... But, still, just see for yourself...)

Oh, yeah, she got LOOOOTS of especially male fans haha

Fencing, another immigrant success story, Rio 2016, who took Gold for Russia in sabre fencing? Yana Yegorian, who came to Russia from Armenia as a child with her parents

Also, there are certain ethnic groups in Russia who have certain sports they are especially good at, and I mean better than all other ethnic groups. And people from those ethnic groups accordingly dominate those particular sports.

People in Caucasus, for example, excel in wrestling, freestyle or Greco-Roman, whatever.

Places like Dagestan are dotted with statues of famous great wrestlers such as Ali Aliev

Ossetia also has own such heroes. Many republics there do.

In many, many Olympics and other international wrestling competitions in all recent years, it was mostly guys from Caucasus who raised the Russian flag in triumph

Caucasians rule wrestling, even the most racist Slavs will admit that, gnashing their bloody teeth, but they will haha

And all wrestling fans all over Russia happily cheer for them too (even if it does often cause certain online exchanges with folks from Caucasus admonishing the Slavs that "We are only equal citizens to you when our boys win medals for you; otherwise we are just 'darkie' scum." lol)

Anyhow, similarly, native Siberians, especially Buryats, reign over all else in archery, which they'd practiced, and perfected to a beautiful art, since the era of Genghis Khan (if not even before...)


So, it is a bit more complex of a picture than the article presents. But, yeah, I don't see Uzbek or Tajik immigrants on the national soccer team anytime soon, nyet.
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