Zenit St Petersburg plan to get around a partial stadium ban by inviting 4,000 kids to attend tomorrow night’s crucial Europa League visit of Celtic.
The Russian club had been ordered to seal off part of the 67,000 capacity Krestovsky ground after being found guilty by UEFA over ‘racist behaviour’ and ‘setting off fireworks’ charges during last November’s victory over Macedonia outfit FK Vardar.
Zenit fans displayed a banner praising former military leader Ratko Mladic, who was convicted of genocide by a UN war crimes tribunal the day before the match and sentenced to life in prison for his role in ethnic cleansing during the war in Bosnia.
The club were also fined 10,000 euros as a result of their fans’ behaviour.
However, Zenit have announced that pupils from the Zenit Academy will take the place of those supporters at the sell-out clash as Roberto Mancini’s side attempt to overturn their 1-0 defeat from last Thursady’s last-32 first leg.
A Zenit spokesperson said: “Up to 4,000 pupils from the Zenit Academy will fill the seats of the fan sector at the match with Celtic.
“Part of the fan sector in stand D will be closed to supporters after a banner was displayed in the home game with Vardar which contradicted UEFA’s Equal Game rules.
“In place of those fans will be young players from the Zenit Academy and it’s attached branches.
“More than 55,000 are expected at the match, with around 1,000 Celtic fans making the trip.”