Russia has demanded banning Ukraine’s men’s national team manager, Oleksandr Petrakov, from football after he stated his desire to combat Vladimir Putin’s invading army.
The Football Union of Russia (FUR) accused Petrakov of prejudice toward Russians and failing to maintain political neutrality.
In a letter to Uefa’s control, ethics, and disciplinary body, Petrakov is accused of having violated codes of conduct by advocating the exclusion of Russians from international competition and expressing his desire to enlist in the military.
As proof of Petrakov’s culpability, Denis Rogachev, the FUR’s deputy secretary general, referenced remarks he made in an interview with The Guardian in April which were subsequently published in Italy’s Corriere Dello Sport and the Sport Express in Russia.
“I thought, if they come to Kyiv, I will pick up a weapon and defend my city,” Petrakov said. “I am 64 but I felt it was normal to do this. I think I could take two or three enemies out.”
The FUR asserts that Petrakov’s remarks violate Fifa and Uefa rules against “discrimination of any kind against a country” as well as promoting football “in a spirit of peace.”
In the interview, which was conducted in Kyiv at the height of the battle, Petrakov, now 65, stated that he had discussed joining the territorial defense with a member of the Ukrainian administration soon after Russia’s invasion. He was told it was not a good idea because of his age and lack of military experience.
“When his country was attacked by invading Inhumans, [Petrakov] was ready to defend his land, his women and children,” a spokesman for the Ukrainian Association of Football said.
“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 invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the ensuing war, which has resulted in thousands of civilian and military fatalities, is not mentioned in Rogachev’s letter to Uefa.
“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 represent a political message which obviously violates the fundamental principle of political neutrality,” he wrote.
“Moreover, the head coach’s behavior (sic) can be regarded as involvement on (sic) promoting public hatred on [a] national basis and [the] use of football to assert the (sic) political views.”
The FUR contends that Oleksandr Petrakov’s remarks amounted to a “call for violence” and that they are “discriminatory on a national basis, as Oleksandr Petrakov calls for suspending all Russian athletes and imposing this sanction on all citizens of the Russian Federation without any legal justification.”
Responding to the claims by FUR, a Uefa spokesman said: “We cannot comment on individual cases. When complaints are received, they are dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the disciplinary regulations. We have no further information to provide you with at this stage.”
An investigation is started when a complaint is made to Uefa’s disciplinary committee. The body, which consists of a president, two vice presidents, and somewhere between three and seven members, would need to agree on a sanction with the backing of the majority of its members.