MADRID (Reuters) - La Liga has announced it will guarantee the safety of Ukraine international striker Roman Zozulya if he decides to play for Rayo Vallecano, after protests triggered by an erroneous media report that he was a neo-Nazi sympathiser.
When Zozulya flew in to join La Liga side Real Betis last summer from Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, a Spanish newspaper reported wrongly that he was wearing the shirt of a far-right paramilitary group.
It quickly apologised and withdrew the article. However, after signing for second-division strugglers Rayo on a six-month loan on Tuesday, Zozulya was greeted in training at his new club by angry fans carrying a banner declaring it was “not a place for Nazis”, and police had to intervene.
La Liga said in a statement that it had met the club, known for their large left-wing fanbase, and the Spanish Footballers’ Association and all had agreed to “guarantee the player’s safety, whether in carrying out his professional work or his personal life”.
It said Zozulya, who wrote an open letter to Rayo supporters denying any link to the far right, would decide on Monday whether to go ahead with the move.
The player returned to Seville very upset after Wednesday’s incident, according to one of his agents, Vladimir Kuzmenko.
“As a father and as a husband, he is worried for his family,” Kuzmenko told the radio station Cadena Ser.
The 27-year-old is under contract with Betis until June 2019 and has also received their backing, but cannot return to play for them as the transfer window closed on Tuesday.
Reporting by Adriana Garcia; Editing by Kevin Liffey