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    Russian football team protest over sheep-lovers banner

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    MOSCOW, April 8 (RIA Novosti) - The general director of Spartak Nalchik has lodged a complaint with the Russian football authorities over an obscene banner suggesting his team and its fans enjoyed intimate relations with sheep.

    The incident occurred on Sunday in the capital's Luzhniki Stadium during Spartak Moscow's match against Spartak Nalchik, from the North Caucasus. Luzhniki hosted the 2008 Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester United.

    The one-word message consisted of seven Cyrillic letters held up by a group of fans in the stadium's Sector C. One fan was arrested in connection with the incident, but the identities of the other fans have yet to be established. Spartak Moscow won the match 2-0.

    Vladimir Balov told the club's official website that the banner was of an "insulting nature, offending the honor and integrity of the club, our fans and the population of the Kabardino-Balkaria republic." He also requested that the Russian soccer authorities discuss the matter at a disciplinary committee meeting.

    The head of the committee, Vladimir Katkov, told Sport Express that the details of the incident were being established, adding that the issue would be raised at its next meeting.

    Russian soccer chief and minister for sport Vitaly Mutko told the paper that the banner was "another excess" that prevented "our football from becoming completely civilized."

    The public use of swearwords, or "mat" in Russian, is prohibited under the country's legal code and punishable by a fine or a custodial sentence of up to 15 days. However, the law is rarely enforced.

    In another recent banner incident, Zenit St. Petersburg were forced to play their first home match of the 2009 season behind closed doors after the club's fans unfurled a banner insulting the memory of Lev Yashin, one of the country's greatest players, during a game against Dynamo Moscow late last year.

    The banner read "Your Yashin snuffed it, and Dynamo will snuff it."

    Lev Yashin (1929-1990) is the only goalkeeper ever to have won the European Player of the Year Award. He spent his whole career, from 1949 to 1971, at Dynamo Moscow.

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