Oleksandr Petrakov, the manager of Ukraine’s national football team, has been fined by UEFA after stating his intention to take up arms and defend his country.
Petrakov promised in April that if Russian forces reached the Ukrainian capital, he would fight alongside his fellow citizens.
“I thought, if they come to Kyiv, I will pick up a weapon and defend my city,” he told British newspaper The Guardian. “I am 64 but I felt it was normal to do this. I think I could take two or three enemies out.”
The Football Union of Russia (FUR) was made aware of the quotes after they were published by numerous newspapers across the continent. In a letter to UEFA’s control, ethics, and disciplinary body, Denis Rogachev, the FUR’s deputy secretary general, claimed Petrakov’s remarks violated UEFA regulations and requested that he be suspended.
Rogachev claims that Petrakov failed to maintain his political neutrality and was prejudiced against Russians. Petrakov acknowledged in his interview that he had spoken to a representative of the Ukrainian government about joining the territorial defence.
The 65-year-old was informed that due to his lack of military experience and advanced age, he was not qualified to serve in the military.
The FUR asserts that Petrakov’s remarks are against FIFA and UEFA rules, which forbid “discrimination of any kind against a country” and seek to advance soccer “in a spirit of peace.”
A representative for the Ukrainian Association of Football responded firmly, saying: “When his country was attacked by invading inhumans, [Petrakov] was ready to defend his land, his women and children. He was not accepted into the army due to his lack of military experience, but his step is a testament to his devotion to the country and patriotism. What kind of discrimination can we talk about in relation to a nation that deliberately commits genocide against another nation?”
The report points out that Rogachev’s letter to UEFA makes no mention of the invasion of Ukraine, which has claimed the lives of thousands of military and civilian personnel, but instead accuses Petrakov of issuing a “call for violence.”
In the letter, Rogachev stated: “The statements by the head coach of the Ukrainian representative football team, Oleksandr Petrakov, are made against the background of the political conflict between the two countries – Russia and Ukraine – and represents a political message which obviously violates the fundamental principle of political neutrality.
“Moreover, the head coach’s behavior can be regarded as involvement on [sic] promoting public hatred on a national basis and the use of football to assert political views.”
Reacting to UEFA’s decision to impose a fine, Petrakov wrote on Facebook:
“There was a warning and a minor fine that the UAF has the honour to pay. So in vain the Russians are trying now – on the eve of an important match of the Ukrainian national team – to distract us from preparing for the game. Everyone is as focused as possible on this and preparing to support our boys.”