Hulk pulls out of 2018 World Cup draw – days after complaining of racism in Russian football
Zenit St Petersburg’s Hulk has pulled out of Saturday’s 2018 World Cup qualifying draw.
The Brazilian striker was due to be one of the assistants for the event but has decided to withdraw – days after slamming the country for their failure to tackle racism.
FIFA cited “club commitments” as the reason for his absence and he will now be replaced by former Russia captain and Chelsea midfielder Alexey Smertin.
Earlier this week, Hulk complained of racism in the country ahead of the showpiece tournament – and also accused a referee of abusing him.
“If [racism] happens in the World Cup, it will be really gross and really ugly,” he said.
“Usually it happens when Russian clubs play and it doesn’t come out to the world and the world doesn’t know about this.
“I must say that almost every game I see this happening. I used to get angry, but now I see this doesn’t help, so I just send a kiss to our fans and try not to get angry.”
In the first game of the new season, ex-Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong said he was racially abused by the crowd while playing for FC Ufa against Spartak Moscow.
The Ghanaian responded with an offensive gesture to the crowd and was subsequently banned for two games.
Remarkably, the Russian FA rejected claims of any racism – with Frimpong labelling the decision “a joke”.
Zenit face a pre-season friendly on Sunday in Yekaterinburg and it is reported boss Andre Villas-Boas did not want Hulk involved in the draw.
A number of former players are set to take part, including Ronaldo, Fabio Cannavaro and Diego Forlan.[via:Mirror]