Union wants soccer players protected in Europe

Union wants soccer players protected in Europe

Published Apr. 12, 2011 6:48 p.m. ET

The soccer players' union wants help to protect athletes in Eastern Europe from violence, racism and match-fixing gangs.

FIFPro says it's creating a regional task force to recommend action and wants backing from FIFA and UEFA plus Europe's clubs and leagues.

The union cites a Montenegrin player Nikola Nikezic allegedly beaten into terminating his contract with FC Kuban in Russia, and Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos being racially insulted by a Zenit St. Petersburg fan.

The union also claims criminal organizations put ''objectionable pressure on players to cooperate in bribery scandals.''


''FIFPro assumes its responsibility and calls on everyone else involved to do the same,'' said Philippe Piat, European president of the umbrella group of unions.

Piat said FIFPro looked for action from high-ranking Eastern European members at the world and European governing bodies. They include two former Zenit presidents in Vitaly Mutko, Russia's sports minister who sits on FIFA's high command, and Sergei Fursenko, who was elected to UEFA's ruling panel last month.

Fursenko leads the Russian soccer federation, which fined Zenit $10,000 after a fan handed Roberto Carlos a banana on arriving to play a match for his new club Anzhi Makhachkala last month.

FIFPro said it worked with Russian union officials to help Nikezic get $256,000 from FC Kuban to settle his contract after they publicized his case.

Clubs in Romania, Russia and Serbia have reportedly failed to pay players.

''We still need to make some progress in Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia,'' FIFPro general secretary Theo van Seggelen told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. ''And we desperately need players' unions in Serbia, Czech Republic and Slovakia.''