The Nigerian ambassador to Russia believes the country is a safe place for black people, amid Western media's drive to portray it as a place with rampant racism ahead of the FIFA 2018 World Cup.
"Racism is a very serious issue, it breaks your morale, it breaks your concentration,” Ambassador Steve Davies Ugbah said at a press conference in Moscow on Friday. “When there are racist attacks on players, particularly on those on the field, I think it’s unfair to the game. I'm very very happy that FIFA has taken a proactive role in terms of trying to discourage or trying to mitigate the incidents of racism in football.”
The ambassador was answering a question about a recent statement made by England's star footballer Danny Rose, which was widely reported by media in the UK. Rose said he told his family not to come to cheer for him at the FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russia to avoid racist abuse.
"Maybe 20 years ago I probably would have asked people coming to this country, especially black people, to be cautious... because of the prevalence of racism," Ambassador Ugbah responded. "That was 20 years ago. Things have changed now," he added. Modern Russian society is “much more tolerant, much more exposed,” the ambassador believes.
“The level of security that I’ve seen in this country is what gives me that confidence that Russia is a safe place for black people,” the Ambassador said, adding that Russia is often “misrepresented” abroad.
“My daughter, who is 16 years old, says [that] Moscow is safer than where she lived in the United States. Moscow is safer. The school she attends is safer than the school she attended in the United States,” Ugbah said. “So what I’m saying – it’s a matter of opening up, of experiencing your own experience.”
“My own advice to people – come and see for yourselves. And don’t base your decisions on rumors that you’ve heard,” the official concluded.