Footballers refuse to return to Ukrainian clubs

At least seven foreign players for two top Ukrainian football teams have refused to return to the country as tensions mount after the Malaysia Airlines crash.

Six players for champions Shakhtar Donetsk players and an Argentine with Metalist Kharkiv are too worried for their safety, media reports said on Sunday (July 20).

The six Donetsk players refused to fly back to Ukraine after their side were beaten 4-1 by Lyon in a friendly match on Saturday in the French town of Annecy, ITAR-TASS news agency said.

Awol in France

Five of the players are Brazilians Alex Teixeira, Fred, Douglas Costa, Dentinho and Argentine Facundo Ferreyra.

They missed their flights are currently absent without official leave in France, the Mirror said, citing French station Canal+.

FC Shakhtar's president Rinat Akhmetov told R-Sport agency that he will not rule out the players returning in the very near future. If they do not return, "they will be the first to suffer".

Meanwhile, Metalist Kharkiv’s Argentine midfielder Sebastian Blanco was at a training camp in Austria, the R-Sport agency reported.

“After the Malaysian plane’s crash, I have no intention to return to Ukraine,” the 26-year-old footballer was quoted as saying.

“The situation there is currently abnormal. I decided to stay in Buenos Aires.”

Keeping football out of politics

Ukrainian Football Federation (FFU) is maintaining the national championship will start on July 25, despite the current violence and troubles in the country's eastern part.

"The entire country mourns over the tragedy that happened. It’s terrible,” FFU spokesman Pavel Ternovoi said.

“But it will not influence the national championship kick off. We insist that football should stay out of politics.”

Sources: AFP, Mirror, Canal+, Reuters