Dynamo Kiev boss criticizes bans on Russian athletes
Dynamo Kiev head coach Mircea Lucescu has spoken against the punishments on Russian athletes who are being denied the chance to compete, stating that sport "has nothing to do with politics."
The 76-year-old Romanian, who has managed a number of clubs in Italy, Ukraine and Russia including reigning Russian Premier League champions Zenit St Petersburg, is currently in Bucharest after fleeing Kiev when Russia's military operation in Ukraine began.
In an interview with Radio Rai in Italy, Lucescu refused to agree that sport, or more specifically Russian athletes, should "pay" for current events by being banned from international events and competitions.
In football, Russia's men's national team have been thrown out of the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers, where their semifinal rivals Poland have received an automatic bye to a March 29 playoff final against either Sweden or the Czech Republic.
The Russian women's team cannot head to England to contest Euro 2022 in the summer, with any hopes resting on an appeal from the Russian Football Union to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn FIFA and UEFA's rulings on the matter.
According to Lucescu, however, such punishments are unfair.
"For me, sport has nothing to do with politics," he was quoted as saying. "People must continue to compete, regardless of their country of origin.
"I do not agree with withdrawing the right to participate in sport from Russians," he added. "They must compete. This didn't have to be done, sport just has to help," Lucescu protested.
Lucescu admitted that he never thought tensions between Russia and Ukraine "would come to this."
"The problem is political... they lived together as brothers," he said. "It will be a long battle and no one will win."
As per his son Razvan, who manages Greek team PAOK who have a Greek-Russian owner in Ivan Savvidis, Lucescu noted that Razvan had "expressed solidarity" which was the "right" thing to do.
"He can't take sides in any other way than on the side of the truth, [and try] to give a correct picture of the situation," Lucescu pointed out.
With the Ukrainian Premier League currently paused halfway through, Lucescu had managed Dynamo Kiev to second place just two points behind one of his former clubs Shakhtar Donetsk, where he spent 12 years and won the UEFA Cup in 2009 alongside various other pieces of domestic silverware.