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Greece

Denying Russian Soccer Player Visa to Enter Britain a ‘Huge Injustice’ Says Coach of his Greek Club

August 24, 2023

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Russian soccer player Magomed Ozdoev being denied a visa to enter Scotland for a European game was a “huge injustice,” his coach at Greek club PAOK said Wednesday.

Ozdoev was refused entry by British authorities for the team’s Europa Conference League qualifying game in Edinburgh on Thursday against Hearts.

The decision came three weeks after another player with a Russian passport, Gaël Ondoua of Swiss club Servette, could not travel to Glasgow to play in the Champions League qualifying rounds against Rangers.

“I feel a sense of huge injustice not to have a player here in our group because of the reason of a visa,” PAOK coach Răzvan Lucescu said at a news conference ahead of the first leg of the Europa Conference League playoff.

“I don’t understand the people who decide about this,” the Romanian coach said. “In a personal way, I feel very bad.”

UEFA said in a statement it could not intervene in visa cases because government authorities “are the sole decision makers in this regard.”

Ozdoev, a 30-year-old midfielder who played 35 times for Russia, left his home country last year after four seasons with Zenit St. Petersburg to join Turkish club Fatih Karagümrük. He is in his first season with PAOK.

“We miss Mago,” PAOK defender William Troost-Ekong said. “We have to adapt as a team but yeah, of course, I’m sad he’s not here with us today.”

“It is always a very difficult line to discuss football and politics,” the Nigeria international said.

Russian teams like Zenit were barred by UEFA from European competitions within days of the military invasion of Ukraine starting in February last year. FIFA also removed Russian national teams from its competitions, including the men’s and women’s World Cups.

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