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24 Oct, 2022 17:22

Ukraine should get Iran’s World Cup place – Shakhtar CEO

Such a move by FIFA would be unprecedented
Ukraine should get Iran’s World Cup place – Shakhtar CEO

Football world governing body FIFA should throw the Iranian team out of the 2022 World Cup and replace them with Ukraine, according to Shakhtar Donetsk CEO Sergey Palkin. 

Ukraine failed to qualify for Qatar 2022 after losing a playoff final to Wales in Cardiff in the summer, with the Welsh team later being drawn into Group B with England, the USA, and Iran.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Palkin demanded that Iran be replaced with his own country at football’s biggest international tournament, citing claims of Iranian assistance to Russia in its military campaign against Ukraine.   

“While the Iranian leadership will have fun watching their national team play at the World Cup, Ukrainians will be killed by Iranian drones and Iranian missiles,” Palkin wrote.

Palkin’s claims echo those of American and Ukrainian officials, who have alleged on various occasions that Russia has received unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from Iran to use in its conflict with Ukraine.

Russia has refuted those claims, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted last week that all weapons used by Russian troops come from domestic stockpiles. 

Speaking on behalf of Shakhtar – which was based in Donetsk before relocating in 2014 to play in other parts of Ukraine – Palkin called on FIFA and “the entire international community to immediately ban Iran’s national team from playing at the World Cup for the country’s direct participation in terrorist attacks on Ukrainians.”

Palkin claimed that the Ukraine national team had “proved that it is worthy of participation” in Qatar, arguing that replacing Iran would be “historically and sportingly justified” while calling for pressure on FIFA to make the move.

Ukraine has not qualified for a World Cup since the 2006 edition in Germany, when it reached the quarterfinals.

In Qatar, Iran will make its third consecutive appearance at the tournament and sixth overall. 

This is the second time in recent weeks that Iran has faced calls to be ejected from the World Cup after an Iranian women’s rights group, Open Stadiums, asked FIFA to ban the team due to restrictions on women from being able to attend local matches.

Open Stadiums shared a letter on Twitter where it asked why Iran was allowed to compete in Qatar when “Iranian women remain locked out of our ‘Beautiful Game.’”

Iranian women were allowed to attend a domestic football match for the first time since 1979 recently, after FIFA reportedly intervened and sent a letter to local authorities demanding them to be allowed to attend more games.

However, Open Stadiums isn’t confident that football grounds will be accessible to female fans, claiming that Iranian women “trust neither the Islamic Republic’s authorities nor the Iranian Football Federation that the Azadi stadium will remain open to them after the FIFA World Cup 2022 concludes on December 18.”

Iran kicks off its World Cup campaign against Russia 2018 semifinalists England on November 21, before taking on Wales and the US.