The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) today condemns the reported actions of the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) and the Ukrainian government against the players of Karpatalya, 2018 Paddy Power World Football Cup winners.

CONIFA has been advised that Karpatalyan players with Ukranian citizenship have been banned for life from football by the FFU, and that Karpatalyan players with Hungarian citizenships have been advised they can no longer enter Ukraine.

The actions come several months after the Sports Minister of Ukraine, Igor Zhdanov, compared the team to “terrorist and separatist groups” following their World Football Cup triumph. CONIFA reiterates its earlier statement: CONIFA is a politically-neutral, volunteer-run charity registered in Sweden. CONIFA takes no position on the political status of its member associations.

To the best of CONIFA’s 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 appalled by the actions of the FFU and Ukrainian government. The FFU’s decision to deregister players simply because of their participation in the 2018 Paddy Power World Football Cup is draconian and contrary to the ideals espoused by FIFA and UEFA (the FFU is a member of both). The Ukrainian government’s reported ban on some Karpatalyan players entering Ukraine is incredibly disturbing, given many have Ukrainian heritage and family members in Ukraine. CONIFA calls on the FFU and the Ukrainian government to immediately reverse their decisions.”

CONIFA Vice President Kristof Wenczel added: “CONIFA is firmly of the belief that the Karpatalyan team have broken no Ukrainian laws or FFU regulations. Accordingly, these sanctions are unjust and represent a gross denial of procedural fairness.”