Two top-level Russian footballers have sparked outrage after a series of 'gay' holiday pictures have emerged.
Pavel Mamayev, 24, a midfielder for CSKA Moscow, and Alexander Kokorin, 21, a striker from FC Dynamo Moscow, are believed to be in a relationship after ‘intimate’ photographs of them were posted on the internet.
On VK, an Eastern-European social network similar to Facebook, Kokorin posted one of the pictures, saying ‘I love him’.
Other snaps include the two hugging, sharing dinner, going to a basketball game, and having a bath together.
As soon as the holiday snaps were uploaded on a popular sports blog, it caused a furore of discussion on internet forums.
Opinions were split with one VK user saying the players should immediately be dropped from the teams.
Another said: ‘They play well so just leave them alone. Their private lives should remain private.’
Neither of the players has commented on the holiday pictures, with only Kokorin continuing to upload photographs from their visit to the USA on Twitter.
Publishing the manifesto on their website, they said: ‘We are not racists, but the absence of black or gay players in the Zenith lineup is an important tradition that underlines the identity of the club, and nothing more.’
Worldwide, the only two footballers to ever come out as gay and continue playing have been Anton Hysén and Justin Fashanu.
Hysén used to play in Sweden’s lower leagues until he came out, became a celebrity, and then went on to win the country’s version of Dancing With The Stars.
Fashanu was the first, and only, English footballer to come out in 1990. Eight years later, he committed suicide.