TORONTO – Six South American soccer players are refusing to return to Ukrainian football club FC Shakhtar Donetsk amid the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Brazilian stars Douglas Costa, Dentinho, Fred, Alex Teixiera, Ismaily, along with Argentine forward Facundo Ferreyra, stayed behind in France after the club played a friendly match against Olympique Lyon on Saturday.
Shakhtar Donetsk’s owner Rinat Akhmetov released a statement on the team’s website threatening the players with financial penalties if they do not return.
“Players have contracts that they have to abide by. If they do not come, I think, they will be the first to suffer,” Akhmetov said in the statement. “Each of them has a minimum release clause, which is tens of millions of euros. If someone wants to reduce this amount by a million, then such a decision is our right. There won’t be [a]clearance sale!”
Donetsk has been at the centre of the recent conflict between Ukraine’s military and pro-Russian rebels, who are battling for control of the city.
Akhmetov says despite not being allowed to play in Donetsk stadium the team is ready to provide security and will not bring players to dangerous places.
The Ukrainian Premier League season starts this Friday. The two teams have left the league reducing it from from 16 teams to 14 after two Crimean clubs withdrew after last season following Russia’s annexation of the peninsula.
The Ukrainian Football Federation has yet to decide where FC Shakhtar Donetsk will play its home games during the ongoing conflict.
Last week a Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down near the pro-Russian separatist controlled region of east Donetsk.
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