Zenit St Petersburg’s big-money signing Brazilian forward Hulk has said he felt safe and secure in Russia, but sharply criticised racist and anti-gay elements among Russian fans.
Hulk, signed by Zenit last year for a reported 60 million euros in Russia’s biggest ever transfer deal, said he and his young family felt safer in Russia than they did in his homeland of Brazil.
“That’s one very important thing, which I feel here in Russia and which is seriously lacking at home in Brazil,” the 26-year-old international was quoted as saying by R-Sport news agency.
“I don’t worry for my child or wife when they go outdoors alone. Security is a very important part of people’s life and I can say that people in Brazil desperately need to improve security.”
But Hulk also expressed his disapproval over racist attitudes from a section of Zenit fans, who provoked outrage in December by publicly urging the club not to sign any black players.
“I think those people, those fans do not care about culture at all. I respect footballers of any skin colour and any sexual orientation.
“Those fans who abuse people of a different colour or gays just do not think at all,” he said.
Zenit are notorious for extremist elements among its hard-core fan base while the city of Saint Petersburg has also earned notoriety for passing a law banning homosexual propaganda among minors.
Hulk, who played for Brazil in the last week’s friendly with Russia at Stamford Bridge, which ended in a 1-1 draw, added that he believed that Russian team would be a real threat at next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
“The Russian team is currently playing at a very good level,” Hulk said. “They did really well against Brazil. I think that Russia are even capable of winning the World Cup next year.”