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Football 'Racist' Spartak 'chocolates' tweet prompts outcry

Russian champions Spartak Moscow, already sanctioned by UEFA this season for racist behaviour, sparked further condemnation on Saturday after a club tweet that likened its black players to "chocolates".

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Following the backlash, midfielder Fernando -- pictured in 2017 -- said that there was "no racism at Spartak, we are friends and a family" play

Following the backlash, midfielder Fernando -- pictured in 2017 -- said that there was "no racism at Spartak, we are friends and a family"

(AFP/File)

Russian champions Spartak Moscow, already sanctioned by UEFA this season for racist behaviour, sparked further condemnation on Saturday after a club tweet that likened its black players to "chocolates".

Spartak tweeted a video of Brazilian players Fernando, Luiz Adriano and Pedro Rocha training in sunny conditions at a team camp in Dubai alongside a caption translated to "see how chocolates melt in the sun".

Defender Georgi Dzhikiya was in charge of the Spartak Twitter account on Saturday and had already posted several other videos.

The tweet was published around 0900 GMT and retweeted over 1,400 times, triggering a wave of criticism before it was deleted almost five hours later.

Several hours after the initial tweet, Spartak published another post with midfielder Fernando, speaking in Russian, saying that there was "no racism at Spartak, we are friends and a family."

A later video showed Dzhikiya and the three Brazilians arm-in-arm, with the Russian international saying: "There is no racism at Spartak, we are all a big family."

Adriano added that Dzhikiya is "like a brother to him".

"Spartak apologises for this unfortunate phrase," a spokesman for the club told news agency TASS.

"The player did not mean to offend anyone, he simply made an unfortunate joke."

UK anti-discriminatory body Kick It Out slammed the Russian club's conduct while voicing their concerns with the start of the World Cup just five months away.

"This social media post from the official account of Spartak Moscow only continues to highlight the prejudices towards black people in Russia," the organisation said.

"With the World Cup only a few months away, it is a reminder that Russia -- as with the whole of football -- has significant work to do to eradicate racism of all forms from the game."

It is not the first time Spartak have been censured over racist behaviour this season.

Leonid Mironov, the 19-year-old captain of the Spartak side, was charged with racist behaviour towards Rhian Brewster last month during a UEFA Youth League game against Liverpool.

Liverpool lodged a similar complaint against Spartak after Brewster's team-mate Bobby Adekanye was racially abused by the Russian club's fans during the reverse fixture in September.

Spartak were found guilty in that instance and were made to partially close their academy ground for one match.

Brazilian striker Hulk said in July 2015 that he encountered racism in "almost every game" while playing for Zenit St Petersburg.

Brazil-born Lokomotiv Moscow goalkeeper Guilherme, twice capped by Russia, was recently subjected to racist chanting by Spartak fans in July's Russian Super Cup.

But Russia has vowed to ensure fans' safety when it hosts the 2018 World Cup by cracking down on both hooliganism and racism.

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