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'Zenit free to sign black players'

Posted on Feb 13, 06:49PM | IANS

St. Petersburg, Feb 13 : The manager of Russia's Zenit fooball club denied Wednesday that racist fans prevent him from signing black players.

The St. Petersburg-based Russian champions is the only major team in the country that has never signed a player from Africa, and the issue was thrust into the spotlight in December when the Landscrona fan group published a manifesto demanding a ban on black and gay players.

"I have absolutely no limits on signing players and the club has never put anything like that in place," Zenit's Manager Luciano Spalletti said, stressing that the team already contained players of mixed-race heritage.

"We've signed players like Hulk, Bruno Alves and (Axel) Witsel, and I don't know what category you want to put them in, we don't have any problems like that."

Former Zenit manager Dick Advocaat once said the team's fans had stopped him signing black players.

But the Landscrona group are wrong and Zenit's public image as a racist club is undeserved, the Italian added.

"The opinion of the group of fans who published this documents is wrong," he said.

"Zenit is a team that's open to all. It's the absolute contradiction of what people say about us."

Zenit host Liverpool Thursday in the last 32 of the Europa League.