Six players on the Shakhtar Donetsk soccer team have refused to return to Donetsk, following a match outside Ukraine. After playing a friendly in France this Saturday, the players simply refused to go back, citing the conflicts in the area between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainians.
Much of eastern Ukraine, including Donetsk, is currently under the control of pro-Russian rebels. While the Ukrainian army tries its best to regain control, the area remains unstable, with more fighting occurring today. The additional impact of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash in the area is adding to the already unfortunate situation.
Due to the battles in the area, the team is unable to play at their home arena, Donbass Arena. The season begins next weekend, however, and the Ukrainian Football Federation has yet to decide at which arena the team will play.
Players Alex Teixeira, Fred, Dentinho, Douglas Costa, Facundo Ferreyra, and Ismaily decided not to fly back to Donetsk this weekend and now they are facing potential sanctions. Club president Rinat Akhmetov said, "Players have contracts that they have to abide by. If they do not come, I think, they will be the first to suffer."
Considering Malaysia Airlines is offering refunds of any flight at this time, it is not surprising that the players may be slightly spooked about flying into Ukraine. Almost all international flights are currently being diverted from the area. However, Akhmetov believes they should return regardless, "Hopefully, the mind and heart will prevail over misunderstanding, and the players will not follow temptation and fear. Especially since there is nothing to fear."
While the club president may have "nothing to fear," the players certainly do. These particular players are not Ukrainians, and their skills are worth a pretty penny elsewhere. Five of the players are from Brazil, and the sixth is from Argentina. Together, their contracts are worth about $78 million on the soccer market.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.