Zenit Saint Petersburg have denied reports that their supporters unveiled a banner in protest of the signing of Malcom Filipe Silva de Oliveira from FC Barcelona. "Thank you leadership for believing in tradition," is what the banner said.
This was picked up by media outlets from outside Russia and judged to have been racist, aimed at the signing of Malcom, a black player from abroad. The radical section of Zenit's support has been upset at the signing of previous signings such as Hulk and Witsel.
Those same reports claimed Zenit were even open to the idea of selling Malcom as soon as January to avoid any further problems with supporters. However, the Russian giants have released a statement which says that isn't true and that a "small group of individuals" were "misunderstood" and people rushed to the wrong conclusions over the meaning of the banner.
"Zenit have a long-standing tradition of inviting the best players from all over the world to the club, regardless of their background, ethnicity, or nationality. The club have long supported and instigated anti-racism, inclusivity and equality initiatives and will continue to do so now, and in the future."
"At the same time, we wish to express our deep regret that media outlets abroad and others, including football clubs, have disingenuously reported the matter, and we would hope that moving forward such organisations would fully check the facts before making any such derogatory statements or accusations."
"Zenit Football Club would be delighted to invite those commenting on the situation to attend one of our home matches and experience the hospitality that we so famously showed during the 2018 World Cup and at other international competitions and events."
Malcom made his debut for Zenit in the 72nd minute and was very active but couldn't turn around the match which finished 1-1. Another new signing, Wilmar Barrios, has been welcomed to the club by supporters due to his impressive start in Russia.
Some Zenit supporters and journalists were angry at the cost of the Malcom deal - €41m - for someone who barely played for Barça.