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Football: Crimea's clubs vote for Russia too


The two principal football clubs in Crimea have reportedly decided to join the Russian league next season despite potential administrative problems and disagreements with the players and fans.

But with the political upheaval over the Crimea, both FC Sevastopol and SC Tavriya Simferopol have decided not to comment on their futures.

"If I say something, I will suffer," one staff member of Simferopol said near the club's training grounds.

Ever since the managers admitted to the media that they intend to change leagues at the beginning of the next season, the Crimean club, the winner of the first Ukraine championship in 1992, has refused any comment.

"There are troubles with UEFA and political difficulties, with all that's happening now," another, slightly more talkative member of the staff said in reference to the governing body of football in Europe.

"The players are wondering about the general situation in Ukraine and in Russia," he said, refusing to speak further after a colleague standing nearby observed his exchange with a reporter.

FC Sevastopol, based in the historic port city 90 kilometres away from Simferopol and currently ranked 11th in the league of 16 teams, has also hinted at its intention to play in Russia.

"This situation is unprecedented. I don't know how it's going to go down," a member of the team told AFP near the entrance to the small stadium seating 5,600.

Some players are worried, especially the foreigners, he said, asking to remain anonymous. "There is a Brazilian, a Serb, a Georgian... many have families!"

He said the entire Ukrainian league has reservations. "Other teams are going to not want to come here because of the situation. Their foreign players are afraid."

Both clubs have said the matches set this week -- Sevastopol against Metalurh Zaporizhzhya and Simferopol against Karpaty Lviv -- are still on.

Tickets for the match in Lviv were on sale Wednesday, with prices starting at 30 hryvnias (less than $3, or two euros), an AFP reporter said.

Clad in his blue and white uniform, the employee of SC Tavriya Simferopol said that the Ukrainian players will not be getting Russian passports.

"So in Russia, they will be considered foreigners," he said.

With the rules in Russia limiting the number of non-Russian players to only seven per team, the nationality issue may result in a massive exodus of players.

Himself a Ukrainian, the staff member said he will not be changing his passport, even though he thinks that being in the Russian league will be "interesting experience" and that the club could do well.

"We already play in the Ukrainian league, and it's not worse than the Russian league," he said.

Near the old Simferopol stadium that holds 20,000 fans, people said they would prefer a place in the Russian Premier League.

"In my soul, I prefer Russia," said one young man who identified himself as Viktor, adding he would like to support his team everywhere it plays in Russia. "In Ukraine it would be quieter," he said.

Most of the clubs' most fervent fans, the so-called "ultras", favour Ukraine, judging by their activity on social networks. For the moment, UEFA has not received any "official demand" for Crimea's clubs to join Russia.

"We are not going to take sides, since whatever we say could be wrongly interpreted," said the body's general secretary Gianni Infantino. "The moment we get an official demand, we shall review it and we shall see."