Shakhtar Donetsk’s owner has said that six players are refusing to return to Ukraine following a friendly match against Lyon on Saturday, as conflict between government forces and pro-Russia separatists rages around the club’s home city.
In a statement on the club’s website released Monday, Shakhtar president Rynat Akhmetov identified the players as Brazilians Alex Teixeira, Fred, Dentinho, Douglas Costa and Ismaily, and Argentine striker Facundo Ferreira.
It comes two days after 298 people aboard a Malaysian Airlines flight died when their plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine.
Akhmetov warned the players would be in breach of their contracts should they opt to stay away and could face “tens of millions of euros” in compensation payments to the club.
“Six players did not come back with the team but they have certain contractual obligations and should they refuse to return, they will be the ones to suffer," Akhmetov said on the club's official website.
"There is nothing to be afraid of and we are ready to guarantee their safety."
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu blamed UK-based agent Kia Joorabchian for misleading the players and taking advantage of the volatile situation in the country in an attempt to have their contracts annulled.
"I detect the 'hand' of agents in this," Lucescu told Kiev’s Segodnya newspaper.
"Kia took our best players like Teixeira, Douglas Costa and Fred and he wanted to do the same with Adriano, Ilsinho, Marlos and Taison but they refused.
"His goal is to make them free agents and earn some money but this is not right, he is trying to make use of the situation in the country and get the players for free.
"Facundo Ferreira has a different agent but he did the same thing. We have to ask FIFA and UEFA for help."
Donetsk, in the east of Ukraine, has been one of the centre’s of the country's three-month conflict, with government forces attempting to retake the city from pro-Russian separatists who seized control in April.
Shakhtar are scheduled to open the new season with a Super Cup encounter against rivals Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday.
The Ukrainian Football Federation has yet to rule where Shakhtar will play its home games while the conflict rages.
Akhmetov has expressed a preference for the mostly Russian-speaking city of Kharkiv in the north-east.
“We aren’t going to take risks and in no way will we take players to somewhere that is dangerous,” Akhmetov said.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-07-21