Spartak Moscow are at the centre of a racism row after their official Twitter account posted a video of three black players in training alongside a caption which translates as “See how chocolates melt in the sun”.
The message was accompanied by several emojis of laughing faces and chocolate bars above a 13-second clip showing the players, reported to be Brazilian trio Fernando, Luiz Adriano and Pedro Rocha, smiling while stretching in sunny conditions.
The anti-discrimination group Kick It Out condemned the Russian club, writing a response on Twitter which read: “This social media post from the official account of Spartak Moscow only continues to highlight the prejudices towards black people in Russia.
“It is a reminder, that along with the whole of football, there is significant work to do to eradicate racism of all forms from the sport.”
Piara Powar, executive director of football Against Racism in Europe, believes the message from Spartak is troubling as Russia builds towards hosting the World Cup later this year.
He told BBC Sport: “Racism is one of the biggest issues Russia faces in the year they host the World Cup. References like this show how some minorities are seen by some in the country.
“For Russia’s biggest club to tolerate and then celebrate racist references of this kind is wrong.”
The controversial Twitter post was later deleted from Spartak’s official page.
It is the third time in a matter of months Spartak have been embroiled in a controversy over racism.
They were ordered to partially close their academy stadium for one fixture by UEFA, which found some of the club’s fans were guilty of racist behaviour towards Liverpool striker Bobby Adekanye during a Youth League match in September.
Last month, Spartak defender Leonid Mironov was charged with racially abusing Reds striker Rhian Brewster following an incident during the return UEFA Youth League clash between the sides at Prenton Park.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has revealed he turned the chance to become Manchester United manager after Sir Alex Ferguson’s exit in 2013.
Klopp was being lined up ahead of Ferguson’s retirement but the then Borussia Dortmund coach rejected their advances in favour of continuing his battle with Bayern Munich.
The German left the club in 2015 before later taking up the post at Anfield following Brendan Rodgers’ departure.
In an exclusive interview with Liverpool legend and Sky Sports pundit Phil Thompson, Klopp said: “I’m a football romantic. I’m confident but not as confident as other managers, thinking this club will call, that club will call.
“A lot of clubs called and I said ‘No, no chance, I need to make a break now’. Even my wife knew, if Liverpool is calling, I go.
“And that’s really difficult to explain. Yes there was interest – Manchester United, yes they were interested a year or a year-and-a-half before, but it didn’t feel right.
“I couldn’t say Man United is not my club, it didn’t feel right.
“When Liverpool called, I had no chance. It was actually too early for my plans.
“I said, ‘Wow, come on!’ But then coming here and feeling the spirit immediately, it was just, for me, a match in heaven.”
Liverpool are involved in an attacking match made in heaven when they host runaway Premier League leaders and United’s neighbours Manchester City on Sunday.
The Reds were battered 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium in September but with the mitigating circumstance of Sadio Mane’s controversial sending off. And Klopp is hoping for revenge at Anfield this weekend.
“When I think about the game on Sunday, I cannot forget the first we played against them,” he added.
“It changed the season for City in a positive way and gave us a little knock for a few days and weeks.
“That was unlucky, it was an open game. Nobody cares about that anymore but it’s the truth. We got a red card, which was the worst place in world football to be one down – wow! No chance that day.
“We have to pay back, in a football way. We have such a strong group here, they really love working together, if you would have seen the sessions this week they are on fire.
“I love that, but that doesn’t mean we will win against Man City, but that does mean we can be really difficult for City.”
Liverpool will be taking on City without another influential figure with the spectre of Philippe Coutinho’s exit looming over this clash.
Klopp said this on Coutinho deal y’day: “By the way, final decision, if I would have said 'no way', the club would have said: 'OK.'” 1/3— Chris Bascombe (@_ChrisBascombe) January 13, 2018
The Brazilian joined Barcelona in a £142million deal earlier this month after a protracted transfer saga and the Reds boss insists the club had no option but sell now.
He said: “We had no chance to use him in the second part of the season. We all tried everything to convince him.
“I cannot give you the details, but we tried all you can imagine, believe me.
“It started in the summer. That was the problem, it was really late. Philippe says, and it’s 100 per cent the truth, I really believe that he wouldn’t have left Liverpool for any other club in the world.
“He was convinced he wanted to go, so in the second half of the season we couldn’t have used him.
“Having a player of his quality and bringing him out there [to play], but his head is already away, and then he plays at 40 percent, gets injured or not, it’s a difficult situation for the whole squad.
“And so, that was the moment, we went okay, we have to do it. To make the best for us. For sure, he can fulfil his dream, but we are still here and it’s a big business with the money.”
Saudi Arabia allowed women to enter a football stadium for the first time to watch a match Friday, as the ultra-conservative kingdom eases strict decades-old rules separating the sexes.
The new measure comes after Riyadh, long known for imposing harsh restrictions on women, announced it was lifting a ban prohibiting them from driving, as well as reopening cinemas.
Women supporters, all wearing the traditional black abaya robe, arrived well ahead of kick-off in the Jeddah stadium, some in sunglasses and others with loose-fitting veils.
The Islamic kingdom has announced a series of reforms initiated by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since last year.
The first football match women are being allowed to attend is a clash between Saudi Premier League clubs Al-Ahli and Al-Batin in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
Alone or accompanied by their families, many women sat in reserved seats in Jeddah’s Pearl stadium.
The game was scheduled to kick off at 8:00 pm (1700 GMT), but enthusiasm for the historic encounter began well before the kick-off.
Lamya Khaled Nasser, a 32-year-old football fan from Jeddah, said she was proud and looking forward to the match.
“This event proves that we are heading for a prosperous future. I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change,” she told AFP.
Ruwayda Ali Qassem, another Jeddah resident, called Friday a “historic day in the kingdom which culminates (in) ongoing fundamental changes”.
“I am proud and extremely happy for this development and for the kingdom’s moves to catch up with civilised measures adopted by many countries,” she said.
The Saudi government said last week women would be allowed to attend a second match on Saturday and a third next Thursday.
The kingdom, which has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women, has long barred them from sports arenas through strict rules that keep the sexes apart in public.
‘HAPPINESS AND JOY’
But in September, hundreds of women were allowed to enter a sports stadium in the capital Riyadh, used mostly for football matches, for the first time to attend celebrations marking the country’s national day.
The easing of social controls comes as Prince Mohammed looks to repackage the oil-rich nation as more moderate and welcoming.
The powerful crown prince’s “Vision 2030” programme for a post-oil era stems partly from an economic motive to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the kingdom reels from an energy slump.
Noura Bakharji, another Jeddah resident, said she always felt bitter when her brothers came back from stadiums to tell her about the excitement of watching football matches in person.
“I always watched games on TV while my brothers went to the stadiums… I asked myself repeatedly ‘Why I can’t go?'” she told AFP.
“Today, things have changed. It’s a day of happiness and joy.”
Hours before the game, Saudi clubs were encouraging women to attend through tweets on social media.
Some clubs are offering special abayas — traditional head-to-toe robes for Saudi women — in team colours.
State-owned Saudi Airlines announced prizes of free tickets for five families who want to travel between cities to watch games.