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France blasts racist Russian chants after football match

French forward Kylian Mbappé scored twice during France's friendly match against Russia in Saint Petersburg, 27 March 2018. Reuters/Grigory Dukor

France’s sports minister has condemned racist chants allegedly directed at players during France’s 3-1 win over Russia at a friendly in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday. Russia, which hosts this year’s Fifa World Cup, is under tough scrutiny over its fans’ behaviour.

Sports minister Laura Flessel, a two-time Olympic fencing champion, posted a message on Twitter on Wednesday saying “Racism has no place on the football pitch.”

“We have to take action together on a European and international level to bring an end to this inadmissible behaviour,” she wrote.

An AFP photographer reported hearing monkey chants aimed at Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele, while internet users claimed to have heard chants targeting Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.

Neither the players nor the French Football Federation commented on the incidents, and Russian officials said they had not received any reports, but were prepared to investigate it.

“If this information is confirmed, then of course we will study both the video replay and everything else that happened around the match,” Vladimir Markin, head of the Russian Football Union's security committee, was quoted as saying in Sport Express.

Fifa says it is closely monitoring the situation in Russia, which will host the World Cup from 14 June to 15 July.

Russian football has long been haunted by fan racism, and anti-discrimination network Football Against Racism in Europe reported 89 racist and far-right incidents at Russian games in the 2016-17 season.

The chants allegedly occurred during the second half of the match.

Each side frustrated the other’s chances for most of the first half before Kylian Mbappé put the ball past Andrei Lunev in the 40th minute.

Pogba doubled the advantage four minutes into the second half with a brilliant free-kick.

Fedor Smolov gave Russia hope, but it proved only a consolation when Mbappé restored France’s two-goal advantage at seven minutes from time.

Russia are winless in five matches and are at 63rd place in Fifa standings.

- with AFP