Amid conflict, six players refuse to return to Ukrainian football team

By Mike Singer |

Six South American soccer players have refused to return to Ukraine to play for their club team Shakhtar Donetsk in the midst of Ukraine's on-going battle with Russian rebels.

Five Brazilians and one Argentinian risked fines and possible suspensions after not traveling back to Donetsk with the team following a friendly in France on Saturday. Donetsk is a hotly contested region on the eastern side of Ukraine, which the military is attempting to re-take from pro-Russian forces.

“If they don't come then in the first instance they will suffer,” Rinat Akhmetov, the club's billionaire owner, said on the team's site. Shakhtar has a match against Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday. Akhmetov intimated that the six players were violating their contracts by failing to report.

Donetsk is also just 38 miles from where Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down last week.

The Ukrainian Football Federation hasn't declared where Shakhtar will play its home games for the domestic league as conflict continues to embroil the region. The season starts on Friday.

"We aren't going to take risks, and in no way will we take players to somewhere that is dangerous," Akhmetov said.

FIFA could rule in favor of the club in this instance, which could penalize the players with a four-month suspension along with a one-year transfer embargo. The six players are Alex Teixeira, Douglas Costa, Facundo Ferreyra, Ismaily, Fred and Dentino.

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