Zenit captain Artem Dzyuba says he is “thankful” for those who supported him after the publication of an intimate video went viral over the weekend, which led to him being dropped by Russia and vile abuse from his own fans.
Dzyuba became public enemy number one overnight when a clip of him masturbating topless atop a bed was shared across Russian social media, leading to him being dropped from the national team and stripped of his captaincy at club side Zenit St. Petersburg.
The Moscow-born striker, 32, found himself in even hotter water after missing a penalty with Zenit trailing 0-1 at home to Krasnodar on Sunday, but then fired his team in front in the second half to inspire a 3-1 comeback win, and wildly gestured to fans during his celebration.
Zenit’s ultras group, ‘Landscrona’, were heard directing homophobic chants towards the striker, and singing derogatory songs, including one titled “Artem Dzyuba wanks when he wants”.
After the game, the player admitted it wasn’t the easiest game of his career, and that on the way home from the match he almost cried, but thanked his supporters for standing by him.
“Congratulations everyone one a very important victory. It wasn’t the easiest match of my career. I almost couldn’t hold back my emotions in the car on the way home,” Dzyuba, who has played for the St. Petersburg club since 2015, said.
“But I would like to say next, that I am not perfect, just like anyone else. I make mistakes. We’re all sinners, unfortunately. I can only blame myself.
“In such moments when practically everybody turns their back on you, I’m unbelievably thankful to those people who are with me and who showed me support in a difficult moment, my friends and loved ones, in such moments you find out who your friends are.
“Even people who I don’t know have supported me, people in the stadium who celebrated wildly (when I scored). I thank you all, I’m so grateful, I will never forget that you were with me.”
“I’m not perfect and have never banked on that. On the whole I hope I can live my life well, and be a good person no matter what. No one has ever stepped up and not made a mistake. Thank you to all the famous faces who supported me, I’m really thankful to you honestly.
“I’m trying to contain myself so as not to be a show-off, that’s not what I’m about. Thanks especially to my teammates, we rallied together and showed everyone that we are really a team.
“Thank you to the world for these lessons which are very painful and harsh for me, but I’ve only myself to blame. I will try my hardest not to break, despite today being extremely difficult. All the best and goodbye.”
Dzyuba has received support from many corners, including from ex-presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, who likened the brouhaha surrounding the video to Soviet Russian attitudes toward sex.
“The world has gone fucking crazy,” the journalist and TV personality said. ““A person could be an asshole, but if he is gifted he should engage in self-realization. Don’t like how he does things? Don’t live with him. Or is it no sex in the USSR?”
Landscrona however have essentially disowned the player, accusing him of “narcissism” and refusing to budge on their apparent stance during the game.
“We see Dzyuba’s behaviour as narcissism & disregard for Zenit’s name,” the group said in a statement released on Monday.