War in Ukraine: athletes ordered to choose between Russian clubs and the French team



A few hours after the Euro final lost against Spain, a press release from Zénith Saint-Petersburg angered the French Basketball Federation (FFB). The leader of the France team Thomas Heurtel, who played in the competition with the Blues, signed on Wednesday September 21 with the Russian club, for a one-year contract with an optional additional year.

Thomas Heurtel, like all the players selected for the Euro, had signed a certificate shortly before the competition stipulating “that he was not committed and that he was not considering signing with a Russian or Belarusian club”. By virtue of a decision by the FFB on July 28 resulting in the exclusion of players playing in the Russian championship, the former leader of Real Madrid could be deprived of participation in the next international competitions, until the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024.

Instructions from the Ministry of Sports

He would thus become the third French basketball player to suffer such a sanction, after winger Louis Labeyrie (UNICS Kazan) and winger Livio Jean-Charles (CSKA Moscow). Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, Russian basketball has been sidelined by European authorities: exclusion from the Euroleague (the most prestigious of European competitions) and Eurobasket.

At the level of French sport, the instructions have been passed since February to the federations by the Ministry of Sports to be firm with regard to the players competing in the Russian and Belarusian championships, reports Radio France. In exchange, the federations will be “supported in the event of the provisional suspension of a member of the French team, engaged in Russia”. However, the Russian championships being not very competitive, rare are the sportsmen called in the teams of France to engage in these formations.

No penalties for volleyball players

Some ice hockey players nevertheless see their selection for the France team compromised, nine months before the world championships. Stéphane Da Costa and Yohann Auvitu, who both play for Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (central Russia) are concerned. “In the current context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it seems extremely complicated to me to (them) select “declared on September 6 Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, president of the French federation of the discipline.

However, the two players do not have the same reasons for staying in Russia, the second hockey country in the world, after Canada. “Yohann decided to distinguish between politics and sport, explained Pierre-Yves Gerbeau. He had an economic opportunity. Salaries are much higher in Russia. For Stéphane, it’s different. He left three years ago, before the humanitarian tragedy in Ukraine. He would like to return but he has a contract to honor. He thinks it’s an injustice. »

In other disciplines, however, athletes do not risk sanctions. This is the case of volleyball player Jenia Grebennikov. Selected with the Blues during the World Cup in early September (defeat of France in the quarter-finals), he had been playing in Russia for several years. Despite the war, his federation refused to penalize him.

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