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Ukraine’s Kharkiv Metalist FC threatens AWOL players with sanctions

July 22, 2014, 19:34 UTC+3 KIEV

“Footballers must return to the team, otherwise penalties will be enforced in regard to them in line with their contracts,” the club’s director general says

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KIEV, July 22. /ITAR-TASS/. Ukraine’s Kharkiv FC will resort to sanctions in regard to four Argentinian players, who were earlier reported to leave the club and travel home to Argentina, in case they do not return playing for the team, the club’s director general said on Tuesday.

Three Argentinian football players Midfielders Alejandro Gomez, Jose Sosa and forward Jonatan Cristaldo, decided against returning to conflict-hit Ukraine and stay in Argentina citing security concerns. Their Metalist FC teammate and compatriot Sebastian Blanco also refused earlier to return to Ukraine.

“I confirm that Jose Sosa, Jonatan Cristaldo and Alejandro Gomez announced to the club about their unwillingness to return to Ukraine and did not come back with the team from the practice in Austria,”Director General Alexander Notchenko said.

“Each of them cited own personal reasons (not to fly) however two days later they did not show up at the team’s practice,” he said. “At the same time media reports suggested that their unwillingness to return was connected with the unstable situation in Ukraine.”

“Footballers must return to the team, otherwise penalties will be enforced in regard to them in line with their contracts,” he added.

Speaking to local media in Argentina, midfielder Gomez said “There is no sense remaining in the country (in Ukraine), where we do not feel secure.”

“We are going to remain in Argentina either until the situation stabilizes or until our contracts cancelled.”

The Argentinian 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).

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."

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 Southeast.

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