- Associated Press - Friday, June 24, 2011

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia will launch a campaign against racism in soccer, looking to end such displays as the one in a game this week when a banana was thrown at a Brazilian star.

Racism has become entrenched in some of the country’s fan clubs, which are heavily laden with ultranationalists and neo-Nazis.

Roberto Carlos, who plays for Anzhi Makhachkala, walked off the field in protest during Wednesday’s league game at Krylya Sovietov Samara, bringing the issue into sharp focus for Russian soccer officials.

The head of Russia’s 2018 World Cup Organizing Committee, Alexei Sorokin, said Friday at a soccer forum in Moscow that the issue was “very difficult to control,” but the Russian Football Union was preparing to put an anti-racism program in place.

“Yes, there are various outbreaks and incidents,” he said. “But they do not represent the overall mood in our society,” he said.

This is not the first time Roberto Carlos has been a target of racism. In March, Russian champion Zenit St. Petersburg was fined $10,000 after one of its fans offered a banana to the Brazilian during a pre-game ceremony.

The 38-year-old left back, who won a World Cup with Brazil in 2002, joined Anzhi this year from Corinthians.

“I’m outraged by the sickening behavior of this fan, who, in fact, insulted not only me but all the players,” he told Sport Express. “I hope Russian federation, UEFA and FIFA will give an adequate evaluation to this disgusting incident.”

The disciplinary committee of the Russian Football Union said it fined Krylya Sovietov almost $11,000. The committee took into consideration the club’s immediate apology to the player and its quick identification of the perpetrator, who is now wanted by police.

Last year, Lokomotiv Moscow fans unfurled a banner showing a banana. The display was directed at Nigerian striker Peter Odemwingie, who went on to join West Bromwich Albion. Russian officials contended the overtly racist banner reflected general discontent with the striker and wasn’t a reference to his skin color.

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