FIFA to probe claims Paul Pogba, Ousmane Dembele racially abused in Russia

FIFA is investigating reports of racist abuse towards France players during Tuesday's friendly against World Cup hosts Russia.

Early on Wednesday, French Minister for Sport Laura Flessel had called for "unified" action to stamp out racism in football following reports that Paul Pogba and Ousmane Dembele were abused during the match in St. Petersburg, while Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) had asked for a FIFA investigation, which the governing body confirmed later in the day.

"FIFA is collecting the different match reports and potential evidence in regards to the discriminatory incident reported in the media, including the one from the FARE observer who was present at the game," a FIFA spokesperson said.

"Please understand, until we have evaluated all information available, we cannot comment further."

Manchester United midfielder Pogba -- who scored one goal and set up another as France won 3-1 on Tuesday -- and Barcelona's Dembele were targeted by monkey chants from a section of the crowd, French media outlets reported.

French news agency AFP reported that one of its photographers had confirmed Dembele was abused while taking two corners, while Pogba was targeted in the 73rd minute.

"Racism has no place on football pitches," Flessel wrote on Twitter. "We have to act in unison at a European and international level in order to stop this inadmissible behaviour."

Anti-racism organisation FARE logged 89 racist and right-wing extremist-linked incidents in the Russian league in 2016-17, AFP reported.

The most recent case involved Spartak Moscow fans abusing Lokomotiv's Brazilian goalkeeper Guilherme Marinato, a naturalised Russian, with the Russian Football Federation (RFF) giving Spartak a final warning.

The RFF said it was aware of the reports when contacted by ESPN FC. The French Football Federation has also been contacted for comment.

"There should be enough there for FIFA to initiate proceedings," Piara Powar, the head of FARE, was reported as saying by the Associated Press early on Wednesday.

"If photographers heard it pitchside, then there must have been stewards and other officials who also heard it.

"If, towards the end of March, these guys don't know what to do and they're not initiating procedures and protocols that exist, then that doesn't bode very well for the World Cup.

"So close to the World Cup, questions are being asked as to why it wasn't dealt with as it occurred during play."

This is the third racism case at St. Petersburg Stadium, which will host a World Cup semifinal.

Zenit St. Petersburg have twice faced UEFA charges for racism by fans in Europa League games.

Fans displayed a banner praising convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic when playing a Macedonian club in November and are accused of using a racially charged term to mock an injured black player in a game against RB Leipzig.

The second case is due to be heard by UEFA on May 31, two weeks before the World Cup begins.

Pogba was named in the starting lineup in St. Petersburg on what would have been his late father's 80th birthday.

After scoring, he lifted his shirt to reveal a "happy birthday" message and pointed to the sky in tribute.

France coach Didier Deschamps praised Pogba after he teed up Kylian Mbappe for France's first goal and scored a free kick to register a goal and an assist in an international for the first time.

"I found him involved -- perhaps less effective at times in defensive phases, but he was involved," Deschamps told reporters.

"More than the free kick he scored, his creativity, the quality of his pass ... he has that. It was a match to ease himself back in, too. It has been a while since he played a full game."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report