Ukrainian club urges FIFA to bar Iran from soccer World Cup over support for Russia

Ukraine’s top soccer club urges world soccer body FIFA to remove Iran from the World Cup because of the country’s alleged military support to the Russian invasion.

Shakhtar Donetsk chief executive Sergei Palkin accuses Iran of “direct participation in terrorist attacks on Ukrainians,” suggesting his own country’s team should play in Qatar instead as a replacement.

“This will be a fair decision that should draw the attention of the whole world to a regime that kills its best people and helps kill Ukrainians,” Palkin says in a statement one day before his team plays at Celtic in the Champions League.

The White House said Thursday that the US has evidence that Iranian troops are “directly engaged on the ground” in Crimea supporting Russian drone attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure and civilian population. And the head of Ukraine’s intelligence service, Kyrylo Budanov, said in an interview published today that Russian forces have used about 330 Iranian-built Shahed drones as of Saturday — and that more have been ordered. Russia and Iran have both denied that the drones used are Iranian-built.

Iran plays in the second game of the World Cup, on November 21 against England, and then faces Wales and the United States in Group B. Wales qualified by beating Ukraine in the playoffs in June in a game that was delayed from March by the war.

FIFA does not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, if an Asian team is suspended, there is no precedent for FIFA to replace it with a European team at the World Cup.

Soccer’s world body does not typically suspend member federations because of military decisions by a national government, though Yugoslavia was barred from trying to qualify for the 1994 World Cup after United Nations sanctions were imposed during the war in the Balkans.

FIFA is also resisting calls this month from Iranian fan groups to suspend the national team during a national crackdown on street protests in support of women’s rights and because of a long-time policy stopping women from freely attending games in soccer and other sports.

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