Rayo Vallecano’s signing of Roman Zozulya has not gone down well among fans of the club, who greeted the Ukraine international on his first day at training with a banner reading “Vallekas [sic] is not a place for Nazis. Or for [club president Raúl Martín] Presa. Leave now.”
Fans also lambasted Zozulya as he arrived at the club’s offices with his agent after the morning session. “We don’t want Nazis here. If you’re a racist don’t wear our shirt.”
Zozulya considering cancelling loan deal
Zozulya and his representative attempted to talk to the fans but with little effect. The latter admitted that the striker, on loan from Betis, is seriously considering rescinding his contract in the face of the backlash.
Rayo were forced to call the police to the scene and they arrived with riot units while Zozulya left by the back door.
The player’s arrival at Betis also caused a stir as Zozulya has made no secret of his support for his national army and has been photographed several times in paramilitary get-up. However, in an open letter to Rayo fans Zozulya denied he held any far-right sympathies and explained that on his arrival in Seville after signing for Betis a local journalist had written a story citing a shirt with the crest of Ukraine “and some verses by the poet Taras Schevchenko” as being of a paramilitary bent. Zozulya explained in the letter that he worked with the Ukrainian military “to help in the defence of my country and to help the most disadvantaged children” in the conflict zone. The story was quickly pulled after an official complaint from Betis.
However, Rayo supporters’ group ADRV termed the traditionally left-wing club’s decision to sign Zozulya as “ridiculous” and an “affront to our history and values.”
"It goes further than ideology"
“When is seems that nothing at this club could surprise us anymore we receive another slap in the face: of the thousands and thousands of players available in the [January] market the decision was made to sign an acknowledged neo-Nazi like Zozulya,” the ADRV said in a statement. “It is not a question of ideology or a way of thinking, it goes further than that: the Ukrainian player has wielded weapons, he has donated money to fascist battalions, he has worn their symbols and he has shown on numerous occasions his support of the far-right in his country, for who he is an emblem.”
The Bukaneros, another supporters’ group, were equally forthright: “We don’t want people like him. His neo-Nazi affiliation prevents him from wearing the shirt. He is not going to tarnish us.”