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Why this footballer was forced to leave hours after transfer

February 02, 2017 16:44 IST

I arrived at Seville airport wearing a shirt with the badge of Ukraine. This journalist reported that I was wearing a shirt from a paramilitary group, whose badge is distinguished from the badge of my country, claims Ukraine forward Roman Zozulya.

Roman ZozulyaUkraine forward Roman Zozulya has left Rayo Vallecano less than 24 hours after completing a loan move from Real Betis amid protests from supporters of the Madrid club about his alleged links to the far right, Betis said on Wednesday.

Zozulya, who issued a statement denying that he supports the far right after his transfer was confirmed, is barred from playing for the remainder of the season for Betis as league rules prohibit players from registering for more than two teams in one campaign.

"We received the news that he was having problems with a radical group and the first thing we did was talk to Rayo and we have decided it's in the best interests of the player to return to Seville," Betis sporting director Miguel Torrecilla told the club's website (www.realbetisbalompie.es) on Wednesday.

"The player is very upset, he didn't expect this to happen. Yesterday he wrote a letter to Rayo's fans but it seems as if he couldn't convince certain sectors and we'll receive him back here. Then we'll let our lawyers advise us on what path to take."

A group of Rayo supporters insulted Zozulya as he reported for his first day of training, forcing him to leave via the back door to avoid another confrontation when the session was over.

They displayed a banner which also criticised club president Raul Martin Presa, who has a prickly relationship with them, for sanctioning the move.

"Vallecas (the Madrid neighbourhood) is no place for nazis, nor for you, Presa. Go now!", read the banner.

Zozulya's open letter denying links with the far right was published on Rayo's website (www.rayovallecano.es).

"Unfortunately, my arrival in Spain was accompanied by a misunderstanding by a journalist who knows very little about the reality of my country and my own career," he wrote.

"I arrived at Seville airport wearing a shirt with the badge of Ukraine. This journalist reported that I was wearing a shirt from a paramilitary group, whose badge is distinguished from the badge of my country," added Zozulya.

"Betis asked for the article to be removed, which it was immediately after they (the newspaper) recognised their error and apologised.

"As I stated at my presentation with Real Betis (last year), I'm not linked to any paramilitary or neo-nazi group," he added.

Close to 10,000 people have been killed since fighting between Ukrainian troops and rebels seeking independence from Kiev broke out in April, 2014.

Rayo, 17th in Spain's second division, have a long history of identifying with left-wing causes and in 2015 assisted a local resident who had been evicted from her house by paying for a new apartment.

Image: Ukrainian footballer Roman Zozulya

Photographer: Harry Engels/Getty Images

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