One of Ukraine’s most storied football clubs has become a casualty of the country’s separatist tumult. Six foreign-born players have abandoned Shakhtar Donetsk, leaving the defending Ukrainian Premier League champion short-handed on the eve of the start of the 2014-15 season.
The six players refused to board a team flight from France back to Ukraine following a 4-1 defeat in a friendly match against the French club Olympique Lyonnais. Five of the six are Brazilian -- Douglas Costa, Fred, Dentinho, Alex Teixiera and Ismaily. The sixth player is Argentine striker Facundo Ferreyra. Ukraine’s Premier League is scheduled to begin its new season on July 26.
While the players provided no public explanation for their actions, security concerns may well have prompted them to jump the team. The incident occurred just days after almost 300 people were killed when a Malaysian Airlines jet was downed by a surface-to-air missile in eastern Ukraine’s conflict zone, where Russian-backed separatists are battling Ukrainian government forces. Donetsk, the team’s home city, is the de facto capital of the separatist forces.
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Emanuele Giulianelli is a freelance sports reporter based in Italy.