Thursday, 7 October 2010

Vladimir Abramov: The most provocative football interview ever?

Clicking through the Russian press as I always do on a morning, my eyes were drawn to a headline on the site "In Russia they really don't like black people". It concerned an interview given by Russian football agent Vladimir Abramov in which he talks about a range of subjects, from his profession to his clients, and also dwells on the subject of black players in Russia.

It's an interview that seriously makes the mind boggle in its crassness.

People in the UK are these days no strangers to Russia's racism problem, now that Peter Odemwingie and the infamous banana banner have become headline news. I must admit I'm a little cynical about the treatment of the subject in the British press, keen as they are to recoup ground after nearly destroying England's bid for the 2018 World Cup with the sting on Lord Triesman.

But the Abramov interview really does cut through the crap and delivers, on a silver platter no less, examples of the kinds of attitudes which I fear are rather prevalent in Russia. Below are the relevant excerpts - health warning included: readers may be consumed with rage.

Q: Is what happened with the career of Peter Odemwingie a shame for Russian football? He earned a lot of money here over three years but played badly. As soon a he leaves for England he pulled himself together and became Premier League player of the month.

Abramov: Peter is a very professional and responsible guy. Everything was easy with Peter. In contrast to other Nigerians. They are very insolent, headstrong, black nationalism is evident in them. When there are more than three Nigerians watch out: they aren't afraid of anyone. Korea has also shed tears over them. In Korea there were never drug dealers, nothing like that. They started to invite athletes, Nigerian agents appeared, drugs appeared in the city centre streets and at the end of it all - AIDS.

...Peter Odemwingie is a very well educated and englightened guy, he speaks three languages, including Russian like you and I. Ask him a question - he answers. The guy speaks openly about what's happening in our country and we don't like it. The guy says: in Russia they don't like black people. It's clear we really don't like black people! No, we say we are white and fluffy. But we are not! Besides, one coach brought him [Odemwingie] and then others came - they changed the coach three times. By the way, what position did he play under Yury Pavlovich [Semin - Lokomotiv Moscow coach]?

On the wing.

Hmmm. And in England where does he play? Centre-forward.

You've said that many footballers prefer not to have anything to do with dark-skinned players. Is that because they discredit themselves?

No, wrong. Black people sometimes behave in a more orderly fashion than whites. The thing is that from my point of view, the Russian people are not happy to see a black-skinned footballer doing his national dance after scoring a goal, and so they abuse him with all sorts of unpleasant words. And Odemwingie says: they draw a banana that hurts our feelings. Does it happen? It happens. Our authorities say: we must punish the clubs. Wrong. Punish for what? Let's punish our people for drinking and smoking. Let's put people everywhere with sticks who, when they see a guy with a cigarette, they smack him on the head. What, is he going to stop smoking? Dark-skinned people - they're good, normal people, but we aren't ready for that yet. If our authorities see that our people are ready to accept black footballers like they do in Europe, I will be more cautious about this issue. But you shouldn't bring into your team more than one dark-skinned footballer. When there's more of them they behave more aggressively and alienate themselves. If you bring in a dark-skinned person, watch how the public react to it.

Jerry-Christian Tchouissé [a Cameroonian who played in Russia for nearly a decade] spoke of the reasons which prevented him from playing for Russia in an interview with Do you believe that 10 years on Welliton could be called up?

I don't. We have a lot of idiots in our country. And I believe that there are intelligent people who would allow a footballer for our national team to be black - like they did in Poland, for example. We have a great country. When does a country become "great"? More than anything, when it has a big population. We have 150 million inhabitants. If we had 150,000 like somewhere like the Faroe Islands, then there would be a problem and we would have to invite black players. We have a lot of different nationalities. Why do we have to take Welliton? He wouldn't have ever played for us if Brazil had called him up. He would have turned his nose up at us, he wouldn't have needed our country, wouldn't have loved it. And he wouldn't have a reason to love it. He will only play for our country for money. Why do we need that? Yes, in the world there's a tendency to call up foreigners to national teams. But a great nation doesn't do these sort of things. Great nations have enough of their own.

Is France not a great nation?

The French are not a great nation. There are only 20-30 million French. Young people and their girlfriends prefer to live in expectation that when their grandparents die they will inherit their flats, sell them for a few million and continue to do nothing. They don't study, they don't want to work. In France they don't even have people to pick grapes! One Frenchman who I respect a lot came to visit me. When I talked with him he lowered his eyes - he's ashamed. Of the French national team, in which black players play. How did you like the situation, where last year the French came to play in Lithuania and saw the banner "Welcome to Europe?" (laughs). They wrote correctly: here come the French team, who have no relationship whatsoever to Europe.

I fear many would consider that racism.

Once again: I lived for five years in Africa. I am very respectful towards black people. Among them are very good people who I have made friends with and remain so. They are clever, orderly people. In America among black people there are very interesting people...but our country isn't ready. We don't understand it. We have 90% of our population who have never been outside Russia.

You consider yourself an offensive expert. You're not afraid to tell the truth.

If telling the truth means being offensive, that's the way it is.

How do you live by this idea?

For me one of the greatest pleasures in life, and which I consider to be the most important achievements of democracy, is the ability to say what you think. When I say what I don't think I have become an animal. I don't like to say stupid things. If I'm talking rubbish, I apologise.

And when was the last time you apologised?


I wonder if Abramov thinks it might be time to apologise now...


Anonymous said...

I dont agree with him at all, although he is really only reflecting common opinion in Russia.
did like the one about the banner in Lithuania,though!

Abilat said...

I wonder if Abramov thinks it might be time to apologise now...

Abramov told truth. He don't need to apologise. Racism is big problem in Russia. People just can't understand that black(and even not black, but other foreigners f.e. Armenians and people from Caucasus) are normal people. And our government ignore this problem. They just don't want to do smth to cope with it.
Russian footbal fan))
p.s. sorry for my english, may have some mistakes)

Anonymous said...

"90% of our population who have never been outside Russia" This is why you probably have this problem communism has only been gone 30 yrs and you have lot of catching up to do, the rest of the world are fully immersed in globalisation everyone goes everywhere. Look at the English premier league the best in the world because it has players from everywhere. Outside of Nigeria UK has the biggest population of Nigerians bigger than the US and are the second most educated ethnic group after the Indians and provide many skilled people to the UK economy. When you go out in London you experience every nationality under the sun a true global melting pot of different peoples and cultures. There is racism in the UK though like there is everywhere but mainly directed at eastern europeans!! who UK people black and white alike blame for taking UK just goes to show you!! Chelsea supporter

Not A Textbook said...

Ridiculous, isn't it? (like the translation by the way)

Anonymous said...

A little mistake in translation. Abramov's answer to the question about Jerry-Christian Tchouissé was the following:

I don't. BUT we have a lot of idiots in our country. And I believe that there COULD BE NOT VERY intelligent people who would allow a footballer for our national team to be black - like they did in Poland, for example.

David F. Pascual said...

Great job dude! If it wasn´t of you I wouldn´t have known this story. It´s a real shame to find this kind of characters in football nowadays. Keep on track mate! I will follow you regularly.

Enrique Carrión said...

I believe that for a player to be part of a national team, he or she must have been born in that country. Just like becoming a president of a country, one must have been born in that country, no exeptions. This way, a country will really show what they are capable of an international tournament. I don't like the French national team bc more than half are born in Africa or Guyana or Caribbean islands. A national team should be the pride of the country, with countrymen, not oursiders. A club is different, but not in the national team. Thanks.

Eduardo said...

i am from panama , i m black and in some terms i am agree with abramov. The french team do not represent that country and my country is very weak in soccer but i do prefer be the last one in the qualifying group instead of bring argentineans or brazilians for playing to my country. I do prefer a defeat . I am agree when the foreign players have born in those countries like zlatan, or carew ,ozil even kuranyi in germany who his mother is panamenian ,he s borned in brazil but "his father is german".. his blood is half german, balotelli was born in italy .. but i am not agree with amauri naturalization.... Probably Ex sovietic countries people havent traveled and they need more education. Probably giving them the world cup 2018 can help them to understand different people and the globalization..

Have u read the spanish translation of this in spain? that was a shame because they use his bad words only,, but he is only saying true things of russia . Polemic? yes, but is true ..

James Appell said...

Thank you, gracias and спасибо to all who have commented and provided feedback, do please keep reading!

Afam said...

@ Enrique Carrión

it's not like the french team when to Africa to call these players. They were either born or lived in France for the better parts of their life.

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Always glad to hear your thoughts. Be nice now! James