Time to Get that Money Back!

It’s been nearly six months since Russia invaded Ukraine and stopped virtually all Ukrainian life dead in its tracks. Among those canceled was the Ukrainian Premier League, including the league’s best squad, Shakhtar Donetsk. Shakhtar has been patient throughout the interim, waiting until they can play again as well as continually playing friendly matches to stay in form. However, there’s a problem that let players leave for free that Shakhtar’s really upset about. €50 million upset.

Soon after the invasion began in the second half of February, FIFA, soccer’s worldwide governing body, announced that they’d created an exception. Even though the transfer window was shut (it only opens in the months of January, July and August), players would be allowed to switch to different clubs for free until Shakhtar started playing again. The problem is that a number of the players who left, including Brazilian midfielder Marcos Antonio and Israeli striker Manor Solomon, had been subjects of transfer negotiations between Shakhtar and other clubs. After FIFA’s decree, players that would have netted tens of millions of euros in transfer fees moved for free. Now, Shakhtar wants restitution.

Given my limited knowledge of how the justice system in Switzerland works (that’s where the Court of Arbitration of Sport is based), I think there’s a good chance Shakhtar ends up winning the case. Yes, the players’ departure was necessary, as remaining on Shakhtar’s roster would’ve been tantamount to sitting out for months, but there’s that issue of foreign clubs taking away their players for free. For the record, there were some clubs, like Real Madrid, who insisted on paying transfer fees even though they weren’t necessary (Real Madrid acquired Vinicius Tobias, a Brazilian right-back, and insisted on paying his €5 million transfer fee despite not needing to).

That said, none of the other clubs who’ve benefited from FIFA’s policy about Shakhtar’s players had the same type of conscience, and Shakhtar Donetsk now is looking at FIFA and wondering how the team will be able to effectively compete when their season begins again after losing so much talent and getting nothing in return.

There are so many battles being fought in Ukraine, and victory isn’t guaranteed at home. However, there’s one battle that’s taking place beyond Ukrainian borders that Ukraine’s best sports club might just win.

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