The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) has been alerted to comments of the Sports Minister of Ukraine, Igor Zhdanov, regarding Karpatalya, winners of the 2018 Paddy Power World Football Cup.

Minister Zhdanov posted on his official Facebook page: ‘I call on the Security Service of Ukraine to respond appropriately to such a frank act of sporting separatism. It is necessary to interrogate the players of the team, as well as to analyze in detail the activities of the deputy organizer of the “Carpathian” for the purpose of encroachment on the territorial integrity of Ukraine and ties with terrorist and separatist groups.’

CONIFA has similarly been alerted to the Football Federation of Ukraine’s intention to undertake an investigation into Karpatalya’s players. According to a statement on the Federation’s official website, ‘According to the results of this review, sanctions will be applied against these players, in particular – disqualification, after which players will not be able to claim to participate in amateur or professional tournaments held on the territory of Ukraine under the auspices of the FFU. We also urge the law enforcement agencies of Ukraine to pay attention to the fact of participation of the indicated players in competitions organized by CONIFA and to check their actions on the subject of propaganda of separatism and encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine.’

CONIFA wishes to stress that it is a politically-neutral, volunteer-run charity registered in Sweden. CONIFA takes no position on the political status of its member associations. CONIFA wishes to state that, to the best of its knowledge, the players, administrators and officials of the Karpatalya football team have never expressed any separatist sentiments or ambitions. The team has a long-standing, demonstrable history of publicly embracing the region’s dual heritage; the team’s flag and logo contain both flags, while the team wears Ukrainian and Hungarian colours on the pitch.

CONIFA General Secretary Sascha Düerkop said: ‘CONIFA is alarmed by calls to interrogate players from the Karpatalya team. CONIFA also considers the FFU’s proposal to de-register Karpatalya players to be draconian. We believe that everyone should be able to represent their identity via football. CONIFA stands with the players of Karpatalya and will monitor developments closely. We urge Minister Zhdanov and the FFU to reconsider their position.’