Watch our film about the lives of black footballers living in Russia

Black Patriots is a Dazed and Nowness collaboration looking at life in Russia as the World Cup approaches

Fans all over the planet are anxiously awaiting the World Cup. While some are nervous because of their misplaced excitement that we (England) might actually do well this year, others are concerned by the perceived hostility of a section of Russian fans towards minorities, and the fact that there are a lot of players due to arrive that are from diverse backgrounds.

Just yesterday (June 6), England defender Danny Rose announced that he had to tell his family not to travel to Russia to watch him play out of fear that they would be subjected to racial abuse. And it was also revealed that the squad is being officially briefed in training sessions to learn how to deal with abuse, should it occur.

It is in this context that Black Patriots was created. The film, a collaboration between Nowness and Dazed, explores what it’s like for black Russian footballers who have navigated the country’s issues with race and aspired to reach a professional level. Director Turkina Faso says that she was moved to work on the film after several high profile instances of racism in football, including the French national team being abused on a St Petersburg pitch in March 2018, and a Liverpool youth player abused by a Russian player in Moscow in September 2017.

These conversations are even more pertinent as the tournament draws near and Black Patriots is chance for black footballers living in Russia to talk about their own experiences of feeling othered within the football sphere.

“All of our three heroes dealt with racism or discrimination somehow. Some fans still throw bananas to the black players on the pitch,” she says. “But they saw the game as something that actually connects people. ‘Black or white it doesn’t matter, the pitch is for everyone at the end’ – they’d say that repeatedly.”

Mouhamed Kone is from Mali and came to Russia with the aim of becoming a professional player. Since living in the country he has been the victim of two hate crimes. He’s joined by Mark, an amateur league player who has been held back from being a professional footballer, and Moscow-based Thon, from South Sudan. He left playing for the Nike team to pursue a career in modelling but still admires the game.  

This is shaping up to be a heavily politicised World Cup, but the men in the film are keen to draw attention to the talent of the players, rather than the country’s social problems. “Russians that react poorly to my skin? That’s generalising too much,” says Kone after he’s just finished talking about a stabbing that left him hospitalised for weeks. “There are a lot of Russians and a lot of different reactions. Once you meet on a football pitch, all of you speak the language of football.”