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Sep 20, 2010

Baggies hero Odemwingie pays tribute to supporters

Peter Odemwingie has thanked West Bromwich Albion fans for making England feel like "home," after his departure from Lokomotiv Moscow was marked by a public display of racism.

• West Brom blog: Derby day gifts

Nigeria international Odemwingie joined the Baggies from the Russian club over the summer and Lokomotiv fans greeted news of his departure with a banner that read 'Thanks WBA' and depicted a banana.

West Brom fans responded to the insult by producing their own banner that reads 'Thanks Lokomotiv' in both English and Cyrillic, as well as promoting the 'Let's Kick Racism Out Of Football' campaign.

While Russia's 2018 World Cup bid official Alexei Sorokin has claimed the Lokomotiv banner was not a racist gesture - and that "getting a banana means to fail a test" in Russia - Odemwingie is not convinced. The forward, who has scored twice in four games since his arrival at the Hawthorns, instead feels comforted by the support of Baggies fans.

"I wanted to thank the fans for the effort they made to get behind me," Odemwingie said. "There was a personal attack on me [at Lokomotiv], but here it feels like I'm home.

"In Moscow they seemed to blame me because Nigeria qualified for the World Cup and Russia did not - they were saying I didn't want to play there and I was only thinking about the World Cup, but that was not true.

"For three years Lokomotiv had not been getting the results they needed. It was a little bit too negative to make me the scapegoat and there was a touch of racism about it. It was hard to cope with it, but I can only say I'm happy it's all over and I've left that atmosphere behind.

"I heard about that explanation [for the banana] but I called some of my childhood friends to find out if they had ever heard it used in that context. I asked them 'Is it a joke or a proverb?' But none of them had ever heard of that saying before. But we all know what that banner was trying to say, don't we?

"I spent three seasons in Russia. I played in some big games and I will always thank them for the opportunity. I was able to spend three years with my mother - since the age of 15 I had always been away with football - and just because of that I can really forget most of the negatives."

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