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15 Mar, 2022 12:08

Russia star clarifies national team absence after manager’s Ukraine comments

Artem Dzyuba responded after national team manager Valeri Karpin cited the 'difficult situation' in Ukraine
Russia star clarifies national team absence after manager’s Ukraine comments

Russian football star Artem Dzyuba says his absence from the latest national team squad is not related to politics after manager Valeri Karpin suggested the forward had not been called up due to family circumstances and the “difficult situation in Ukraine.”

Dzyuba was not named in the 27-man Russia squad announced on Monday for a training camp which gets underway in Moscow on March 21.

Manager Karpin said he had spoken to Dzyuba on Sunday and that the forward had asked not to be recalled for the first time since last summer, citing “the difficult situation in Ukraine, where he has many relatives.”

But Dzyuba claimed to Sport-Express that Karpin had potentially misunderstood him or been misinterpreted by the media.

“I didn’t go to the Russia squad not because of political issues,” said the 33-year-old, who is Russia’s joint-top scorer of all-time.

“It’s a matter of family circumstances, but I don’t want to go into details. 

“At this period in time, I’d like to spend time with my family. It seems to me that there was a misunderstanding, Valeri Georgievich [Karpin] misunderstood me, or his words were misinterpreted.”

Dzyuba, who has struck 10 goals in 20 Russian Premier League games for club team Zenit St. Petersburg this season, reiterated that he was keen on an international return at some point.

“Yes, of course [I want to play for Russia again]. I called Valeri Georgievich and asked him not to call me up. As I understand it, he wanted to invite me to the national team, and it was uncomfortable for me to refuse. 

“In future, I hope I’ll be called up if I deserve it. Of course, any footballer wants to play for the national team.”

Dzyuba was born in Moscow but his father, Sergey, hails from the Ukrainian region of Poltava.

He previously spoke on the current situation in Ukraine after being called out by several Ukrainian football stars for his supposed silence on the issue.

In an Instagram message, Dzyuba said he was “not an expert on politics” but criticized what he described as “double standards” and the widespread bans being dished out to Russian sportspeople.

"War is scary. But I’m also against human aggression and hate which acquires greater proportions every day,” wrote Dzyuba.

“I am against discrimination based on nationality. I’m not ashamed that I’m Russian. I’m proud to be Russian. And I don’t understand why athletes should suffer now.”

After being goaded by the likes of Ukrainian star Andriy Yarmolenko, who plays at English Premier League club West Ham, Dzyuba replied: “And to some colleagues who sit on their backsides in mansions in England and say nasty things: this cannot offend us, we understand everything! Peace and kindness to all!”

Dzyuba has won 55 caps for Russia and is alongside former Zenit St. Petersburg striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov as his nation’s top scorer with 30 goals in international football.

Dzyuba reached that landmark in the Euro 2020 group stage defeat to Denmark last summer, which is the last time he appeared for his country.

Karpin, a former Russia international who spent much of his playing career in Spain, took over from Stanislav Cherchesov in the wake of the Euro 2020 debacle and is known to have a patchy relationship with Dzyuba stemming from their time together at Spartak Moscow.

However, talks are reported to have paved the way for a potential recall before Dzyuba’s latest absence from the squad.  

Karpin is going ahead with the March gathering despite Russia being banned from playing their World Cup qualifying playoff semifinal against Poland.

That match had been scheduled for March 24 in Moscow, potentially followed by a meeting with Sweden or the Czech Republic five days later, but was scrapped when all Russian teams were suspended from FIFA and UEFA competitions due to the military operation in Ukraine.