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FIFA ‘will destroy’ Ukrainian football giant, claims official

Shakhtar Donetsk has accused the global governing body of not doing enough to help its cause

The director of football at Shakhtar Donetsk has accused FIFA of “doing nothing” to help the club after its appeal against a controversial transfer ruling was dismissed earlier this month. Darijo Srna claimed FIFA “will destroy” his club through its current stance.

“The whole world is helping Ukraine but FIFA doesn’t help its football. It’s their duty and they do nothing,” Srna complained in an interview with The Guardian published on Thursday.

Shakhtar officials have been angered by a FIFA transfer policy which allowed foreign players and coaching staff at Russian and Ukrainian clubs to unilaterally suspend their contracts until the end of June 2023 due to the ongoing conflict. Initially announced in March, the policy was extended in June ahead of the new season.

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Eight Russian clubs as well as Ukrainian Premier League team Shakhtar lodged an appeal against the decision with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, but saw their complaints dismissed earlier in January. Russian teams argued that the FIFA policy was discriminatory and undermined the legitimacy of contracts, while Shakhtar claimed it meant the club would lose out on millions in potential transfer fees.

“What FIFA have done to us is not right,” added Srna, a Croat former defender who spent part of his playing career at Shakhtar. “They will destroy us. We’re not asking for money that isn’t ours. We want to protect a club that has played 17 times [sic] in the Champions League group stage.

“And it doesn’t matter whether it’s us or another club, it’s the entire country. We want them to protect the Ukrainian league and instead we feel as if we’re fighting not only against Russia, but against FIFA too.”

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It emerged in July that Shakhtar was seeking €50 million ($54 million) as compensation for players who left on loan when they could otherwise have been sold. The club has, however, received a significant boost to its coffers in recent days following the sale of winger Mikhail Mudryk to English giants Chelsea in a deal said to be worth up to €100 million ($108 million).

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After the sale, club president Rinat Akhmetov said that $25 million would be allocated to help the Ukrainian effort in the conflict against Russia, including to support the defenders of Mariupol and their families. The city was the scene of vicious fighting as the neo-Nazi Azov regiment attempted to stave off Russian attacks before surrendering in May.   

Shakhtar formerly played at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk and the club retained its name despite relocating to western Ukraine following the violence prompted by the coup in Kiev in 2014. Donetsk was one of four regions which formally became part of Russia following referendums in September of last year. 

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Meanwhile, Russian clubs continue to be banned by UEFA and FIFA from all official international competitions due to the conflict with Ukraine. It was announced by the Russian Football Union (RFU) at the end of December that it would establish a working group alongside UEFA in an effort to find a potential route to competitions for Russian teams.

FIFA had caused anger in Ukraine earlier in December by rejecting a request from President Vladimir Zelensky to make a video address ahead of the World Cup final between Argentina and France in Qatar. 

January 20, 2023 at 03:57PM
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