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Costa in race row

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

CZECH Republic-based former Zimbabwe international defender Costa Nhamoinesu has been embroiled in a racism row after hitting out at racist behaviour by fans at his club Sparta Prague during a Czech Cup semi-final match against Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday.

Although Nhamoinesu did not feature in the crucial cup game, which his team won 2-1 to progress to the final, the 34-year-old has been hogging the limelight in the Czech Republic after publicly criticising his club’s spectators for directing shocking racist insults at a player in the Viktoria Plzen side.

AC Sparta Prague fans reportedly made monkey chants towards Viktoria Plzen midfielder Joel Ngandu Kayamba from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Czech Cup semi-final match at Sparta’s Letná Stadium was one of the first matches where a large number of spectators were allowed into the stadium, with over 2 000 fans watching the match as normalcy slowly returns after the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to the monkey screams, the club’s ultras also displayed a banner inscribed with the words: “White Lives Matter”, a white supremacist phrase that originated in early 2015 as a racist response to the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which arose to protest against police brutality against African-Americans.

The radical section of Sparta Prague fans later released a statement criticising the involvement with Sparta in the “Black Lives Matter” campaign, as well as the initiative of their own players.

Nhamoinesu was part of a group of Sparta Prague players — together with Gabonese midfielder Guelor Kanga, Ghanaian striker Benjamin Tetteh and Georges Mandjeck from Cameroon —who have been publicly supporting the “Black Lives Matter” movement and criticising racism in Czech football stadiums.

The sporting world has in recent weeks been rallying behind “Black Lives Matter”, in support of the campaigning against racial injustice, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA.

The gifted Zimbabwean defender, who is the club captain and longest-serving player at the club, stood in solidarity with the Viktoria Plzen player Kayamba and declared that he would continue to fight against racism even if it meant criticising his club’s fans.

“I’m sorry he had to endure the imitation of monkey screams during the match at our stadium,” Nhamoinesu said.

“If they (the Sparta fans) show monkey screams at you, it applies to me. It’s not just sad for you, but for all of us, we’re in it together. It is a great pity that something like this is still happening and it is tarnishing our sport. Thank you to the real fans, who support Sparta,” the Spartan defender said in his apology to Kayamba.

Nhamoinesu, who has been a victim of sickening racial abuse in the past, later took his anti-racism campaign to Twitter, where his message received support from some of the club’s fans.

“Good feeling to progress to Cup final, but sad to hear monkey chants during the game. “Sport has no colour. We are all human beings!! #NoToRacism. Let’s create a better future for the younger generation and enjoy the beautiful game,” he wrote.

Sparta Prague’s director of communications Ondrej Kasík said the club supported Nhamoinesu’s stance against racism.

“In general, any racist expression in Sparta is something we do not want,” Kasík said. “We are a club that has long used players of any faith and any skin colour in its staff and will continue to do so. It must be said that Sparta has come a long way in the fight against racism and has shown in recent months that it is taking this issue seriously.”

The Czech soccer league’s disciplinary committee revealed on Thursday it had opened an investigation into alleged racist abuse of Kayamba during Wednesday’s match with Sparta Prague set to receive punitive measures.

Last week the league fined top-flight club Sigma Olomouc 120 000 Czech crowns (US$5 050) after its fans racially abused an opposing player during a game.

The incident occurred last Sunday during the game between Olomouc and Plzen, when several fans directed racist insults at Plzen striker Jean-David Beauguel of France, who is black.

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