Ukraine leader backs Zozulya after ′Nazi′ chants | News | DW | 16.12.2019
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Ukraine leader backs Zozulya after 'Nazi' chants

Repeated chants have halted a second division football match in Spain. Ukrainian Roman Zozulya — playing for Albacete — was accused by leftist Rayo Vallecano fans of being a "Nazi," a label he denies.

Both teams and Spain's La Liga jointly backed Sunday's decision made at half-time by the referee to suspend the game hosted in Madrid, after local fans defied the Vallecas stadium announcer and chanted "Zozulya you are a Nazi" at Ukrainian international Roman Zozulya.

In February 2017, Zozulya was shunned during a brief spell at Rayo Vallecano, a team based in Madrid's working class Vallecas neighbourhood, and whose fans are known for left-wing activism.

The striker denied at the time belonging to far-right groups in his native Ukraine and disputed holding extreme political views.

He did, however, admit to financially supporting Ukrainian troops battling against pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donbass region. 

'True patriot'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday the entire country backed Zozulya who he called "not only a cool football player but a true patriot."

"Roman Zozulya, not only your team supports you, the whole of Ukraine supports you," Zelensky said on social media.

Albacete, whom Zozulya later joined in 2017 as a free agent, said Sunday's game suspension had "one objective, which is to safeguard the values of our competition and the sport we all love." 

The Ukrainian embassy in Spain strongly condemned "the new provocation" against Zozulya.

"Insults and threats against Roman Zozulya are absolutely unfair and unacceptable," the mission said in a statement, adding that loving one's country and taking care of its destiny was natural for a conscious citizen in a civilized world.

Read more: Hertha Berlin youth team walks off after racist abuse

Suspensions common

It's the latest in a series of match abandonments in diverse contexts in Europe, including Hertha Berlin's youth team walking off on Saturday after alleged racist abuse by rival players.

In mid-November, Dutch Den Bosch fans denigrated Excelsior Rotterdam's forward Ahmad Mendes Moreira. Earlier in November, Italian striker Mario Balotelli walked off the pitch briefly over racist chants.

Niederlande | FC Den Bosch vs Excelsior Rotterdam | Rassismus (picturealliance/dpa/PRO SHOTS)

November 17: Rotterdam's Moreira accompanied by teammates as they leave the field

In October, Bulgarian fans taunted visiting England black players.

When Sunday's Rayo-Albacete match was suspended, the half-time score was goalless. Albacete were down to 10 men after striker Eddy Silvester was sent off. 

kw,ipj/dr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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