MOSCOW - Zenit St Petersburg's Brazil marksman Hulk on Monday dubbed as "disgraceful" the latest racist incident in Russia and expressed fears racism could raise its ugly head at the World Cup the country will host in 2018.
Russian football was hit by a new race storm on Friday when Ghana midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong, playing for Ufa in the season opener of the Russian Premier League against Spartak Moscow, was sent off after just 30 minutes for reacting to a stream of racist abuse.
"It's a disgrace," Hulk, last season's Russian league top scorer, told the press Monday.
"Racism can happen anywhere, in everyday life as well, but it's always very sad, it shouldn't happen.
"If this happens during the 2018 World Cup it may become a serious problem as the whole world will be able to watch it." Hulk added: "In the past I myself felt offended and was really angered with these racist outbreaks. But neither referees nor football officials here pay serious attention to this problem.
"That's why I now try not to get angry. I just blow kisses to those who try to offend me." Argentinian international Ezequiel Garay echoed his teammate's concerns.
"I'm also 'black'. And I feel embarrassed when such things happen. I'd like to advise the fans to enjoy football, not to concentrate on anybody's origin or skin colour. We're all alike, we're all footballers," he said.
After Friday's incident, Frimpong also said he was stunned by the ongoing problem of racism in Russian football, just three years out from the country hosting the 2018 World Cup.
He added on Twitter: "..and yet we going to hold a World Cup in this country where Africans will have to come play football".
"I want to apologize for the sending off after being provoked, shouldn't have happened but also am a human being," the 23-year-old Frimpong later tweeted after the game which ended 2-2.
"Racially abused for the game that I love. Fantastic result to draw with Spartak, proud of team and I'm going to serve a sentence for being abused."