Former Bafana Bafana player MacBeth Sibaya says that racism back home in South Africa is worse than anything he experienced playing in Russia.
Sibaya, who has now retired from playing, spent seven years in Russia at Rubin Kazan from 2003.
“They are very curious I wouldn’t say it’s racism because I live here in South Africa so I know what racism is,” he told BBC Sport.
“Racism is a system and I didn’t see a system directed at hating blacks.”
The 40-year-old, who was part of the South Africa squad at the 2002 and 2010 World Cups, admits there are problems in Russia but not on the scale of South Africa.
“I’m not denying that it [racism] happens but I am saying I live in South Africa I know racism it’s not like that in Russia,” he insisted.
He also had some advice for any African fans following their team at the World Cup.
“I’d say they have to be as African as they can be because that is your strength,” he said.
“So don’t try to be someone else if you are going to survive anywhere in the world you have to be who you really are.”
Sibaya, who is now a coach for South African side SuperSport United’s under-19 team, said he did not feel intimidated when he first arrived in Kazan.
“The welcome I got in Russia was quite good and strange at the same time because you were going to a country where people are not used to black people,” he explained.
“At that time I had dreadlocks so they wanted to touch my hair and see if it’s real or how does it grow to be this shape and this colour.
“So I had to do a lot of explanations on how I got my hair to look like that. They were just interested to know an African.”