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Shakhtar urge Iran be replaced by Ukraine at World Cup

Iran should be thrown out of this year’s football World Cup and replaced by Ukraine over the alleged use of Iranian drones by Russia in its war against Kyiv, according to a top Ukrainian club official.

“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,” Sergiy Palkin, CEO of Shakhtar Donetsk, wrote on Facebook.

“Each of them (the drones) was produced, delivered by the Iranian authorities, Iranian instructors and the military directly trained and managed the launches of drones that destroyed homes, museums, universities, offices, sports grounds and playgrounds, and most importantly, killed Ukrainians,” Palkin said.

“Shakhtar calls 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 urged FIFA to replace Iran by Ukraine after it “proved that it is worthy of participation” in the World Cup. 

“With unequal conditions with other national teams during the play-offs, they played with their heart,” he said.

The World Cup in Qatar kicks off on November 20.

Ukraine beat Scotland 3-1 in Glasgow before going down 1-0 to Wales in the decisive playoff match for a World Cup spot in June in Cardiff.

The rules governing the World Cup give FIFA the possibility of replacing one country with another, mainly if a participating country withdraws, but they do not set out the criteria used to replace a country.

Replacing Iran by Ukraine would be “historically and sportingly justified”, Palkin said, adding that he urges “everyone to join the pressure on the football bureaucracy”.

It’s not the first time that Palkin has pressed FIFA over its decisions in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that began in February.

In recent months, Palkin has taken aim at world football’s governing body for its controversial decision to allow foreign players to leave Ukrainian clubs without compensation to flee the war.

For Shakhtar, who for years have relied on an influx of Brazilian players, the decision meant losing tens of millions of dollars as almost all the club’s foreign players have left.

There was no immediate reaction to Palkin’s call either from Ukrainian football authorities or from the country’s political leadership.

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