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Leagues: La Liga

Liga chief threatens criminal action in Zozulya case

Madrid (AFP) – La Liga president Javier Tebas said Thursday criminal action could be taken over threats which saw Ukranian international Roman Zozulya end his loan spell at Rayo Vallecano after just one day.

Zozulya joined Madrid-based Rayo on Tuesday from Real Betis on a six-month loan deal, but returned to Betis on Wednesday after being met with protests by Rayo fans over his political affiliations.

In a letter to Rayo fans, Zozulya admitted to having collaborated with the Ukranian army during the civil war in his homeland.

However, he denied having any “link to or supporting any paramilitary or Neo-Nazi group.”

“If in my future conversations it is shown that there was clear coercion or if the president of Rayo and the player tell me they have been threatened, I will launch a criminal complaint for coercion,” said Tebas.

Zozulya was met with the banners reading “Vallekas is not the place for Nazis” at Rayo’s training ground on Wednesday by the club’s ultra-left wing supporters’ group.

The rest of the Betis squad showed their support for Zozulya in a joint statement on Thursday.

“We are here to express our indignation at the events that our teammate Roman Zozulya has suffered in the past few hours,” said Betis captain Joaquin surrounded by the rest of the squad.

“We have witnessed a public lynching of a footballer whose professionalism and personal behaviour has been impeccable since his arrival.”

Zozulya has made six appearances for Betis since joining on a free transfer from Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk at the start of the season.

However, he will be unable to play for Betis for the rest of the season despite returning as his registration has been ceded to Rayo for six months.

The 27-year-old claimed in his letter to Rayo fans on Wednesday that accusations of his far-right beliefs come from a misunderstanding of a symbol he wore on a t-shirt upon his arrival in Seville to sign for Betis.

He has received support from Ukranian tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who shocked Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2013.

“Dear ultras of @RVMOficial – Looks like you are uneducated, close minded individuals. Your club don’t deserve a player like @zozulyaroman18,” Stakhovsky posted on his Twitter account.

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