Manchester City's Yaya Toure, center, points toward fans while speaking… (Denis Tyrin / Associated…)
Ivorian international Yaya Toure has warned World Cup organizers that players could boycott the 2018 tournament in Russia unless that country takes steps to stop the kind of racist actions that plagued Wednesday's UEFA Champions League match between CSKA Moscow and Toure's English Premier League club, Manchester City.
Toure said the behavior at Khimki Arena was "unbelievable" during City's 2-1 win, and he urged authorities to impose tougher sanctions on clubs that fail to effectively combat racism.
According to the London Guardian, UEFA officials reviewed the game report submitted by referee Ovidiu Hategan of Romania and said disciplinary proceedings have been opened against CSKA for "racist behavior of their fans."
According to the newspaper, Toure was furious after the match. Asked whether Russia had to address racism before 2018, the two-time World Cup veteran was direct. "Of course they do," he said. "It's very important. Otherwise if we are not confident coming to the World Cup in Russia, we don't come."
UEFA and FIFA, whose anti-racism campaigns have failed to stop ugly displays by fans, especially in Eastern Europe and Italy, declined comment, but the incident is clearly an embarrassment coming as it did during one of UEFA's Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) action weeks.
CSKA, meanwhile, blamed Toure, saying he was "clearly exaggerating" what happened.
"Having carefully studied the video of the game, we found no racist insults from fans of CSKA," the club said in a statement. "In many occasions, especially during attacks on our goal, fans booed and whistled to put pressure on rival players, but regardless of their race."
That response angered more than just Toure, with Manchester City officials saying that have spoken to several witnesses who back the claims of racism.
"I know we have the fight against racism but we are not kids and we have to stop it now," Toure, Manchester City's captain in the match, told the Guardian. "[UEFA officials] have to react. I want to stop this. It is always the same. I am unhappy because the reaction of the fans was unbelievable.
"If UEFA don't take action, it will continue. We always say there will be action or blah, blah, something like that. But we have to do that. I don't know what else to say."
UEFA's disciplinary body is scheduled to convene on Oct. 30 to decide if CSKA should face sanctions, which could include the partial closure of Khimki Arena.
Also likely to be penalized is Hategan. Under UEFA's new anti-racism regulations, the official could have stopped the match after Toure complained to him about the fans' behavior. However, the referee allowed play to continue.
"The referee should not be refereeing again," said Lord Ouseley, chairman of England's anti-racism Kick It Out campaign.
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