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Foreign footballers keep fleeing Ukrainian clubs citing security concerns

July 22, 2014, 14:34 UTC+3 BUENOS AIRES
Midfielders Alejandro Gomez, Jose Sosa and forward Jonatan Cristaldo are currently staying in Argentina’s Buenos Aires
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Jose Sosa of FC Metalist

Jose Sosa of FC Metalist

© EPA/ITAR-TASS/MARIO CRUZ

BUENOS AIRES, July 22. /ITAR-TASS/. Another three Argentinean football players from Ukraine’s Metalist Kharkiv FC decided against returning to conflict-hit Ukraine and stay in Argentina citing security concerns, local Argentinean media reported on Tuesday.

Infographics Who fights in Ukraine Who fights in Ukraine
The political crisis in Ukraine led to the formation of many armed groups on its territory. Infographics by ITAR-TASS
Midfielders Alejandro Gomez, Jose Sosa and forward Jonatan Cristaldo are currently staying in Argentina’s Buenos Aires. Their Metalist FC teammate and compatriot Sebastian Blanco also refused earlier to return to Ukraine.

“There is no sense remaining in the country [in Ukraine], where we do not feel secure,” Gomez told local media. “We are going to remain in Argentina either until the situation stabilizes or until our contracts cancelled.”

The Argentinean midfielder said the catastrophe with the Malaysia Airlines aircraft, which crashed in southeastern Ukraine last Thursday killing all 298 people on board, was the “last straw to break the camel’s back” forcing three of them to make such decision.

“I have a wife and a little son and I cannot subject their lives to danger,” Gomez said adding that he along with Sosa and Cristaldo count on Metalist FC managers and FIFA executives’ understanding.

The foreign players’ refusal to continue playing for Ukrainian football clubs in not the first in the recent days. Six foreign players from the Dontesk Shakhtar FC skipped the plane back to Ukraine after a friendly against Lyon FC on Saturday and decided to remain in France rather than returning to conflict stricken Ukraine also citing security concerns.

Brazilian's Douglas Costa, Fred, Dentinho, Alex Teixiera, Ismaily and Argentinian Facundo Ferreyra had their combined transfer deals at the Shakhtar FC worth a total of 57 million euros ($77 million).

CNN reported on Sunday that Shakhtar president Rinat Akhmetov threatened with financial penalties for the players in case they refuse to continue playing for the club, which is scheduled to play rivals Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday.

"Players have contracts that they have to abide by,” CNN quoted Akhmetov as saying. “If they do not come, I think, they will be the first to suffer. Each of them has a minimum release clause, which is tens of millions of euro.”

"If someone wants to reduce this amount by a million, then such a decision is our right," he added.

AP news agency reported on Tuesday citing 23-year-old Brazilian midfielder Douglas Costa that Shakhtar FC foreign players, who went AWOL from the club on Saturday, wanted to practice in Switzerland while the conflict continues in Ukraine and they were not seeking transfers to other football clubs.

"I like the club, the people, the city, but I'm afraid," AP quoted Costa as saying on his Instagram account. "We want to stay at the club, but we must have risk-free working conditions."

Costa added that he and his teammates are "all run a deadly risk if we are in the region."

Commenting on the situation on Monday, Russian sports lawyer Mikhail Prokopets said it would be up either to FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber or the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland’s Lausanne to resolve the situation with six AWOL football players.

“An employer must provide safety for the players and it is an issue open for debates whether the safety was provided or not. Both the administration of the Shakhtar FC and its players have arguments in their favor,” he said.

“The decision who is right and who is wrong will be made by the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber,” Prokopets said. “If one of the parties disagrees with its decision it can go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne.”

Pro-Kiev troops and local militias in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are currently involved in fierce clashes as the Ukrainian armed forces continue conducting a military operation to regain control over the breakaway regions, which on May 11 proclaimed their independence at local referendums.

During the military operation, conducted since mid-April, Kiev has used armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation. According to Ukraine’s Health Ministry, 478 civilians have been killed and 1,392 wounded in it. Many buildings have been destroyed and tens of thousands of people have had to flee Ukraine’s war-torn south-east.

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