Tottenham manager Antonio Conte sympathizes with banned Russian athletes: 'It's not fair'

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Former Chelsea head coach and current Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte expressed his sympathy this week for Russian athletes banned from international competition following Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, saying “it’s not fair.” 

The Italian-born coach called the war a “very sad” situation but added that the global calls to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competition is “not right.”

Manager Antonio Conte of Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Everton at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on March 7, 2022 in London, United Kingdom. 
(Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

“I think it’s not fair. I know very well the work that they do every day for this competition. You have to pay for this situation, I think it’s not right.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) urged sports bodies to act against Russia on March 1 days after its invasion of Ukraine, prompting bans on Russian and Belarusian players with some being forced to compete as neutrals.

Antonio Conte, head coach of Tottenham Hotspur talks to the media during the Tottenham Hotspur press conference at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre on March 10, 2022 in Enfield, England. 
(Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

“Honestly I hope the situation is going to be solved, because it’s creating a lot of damage. We’re in 2022 and to see this is horrible for everybody.”

The Russian soccer federation has appealed against bans on national and club teams by FIFA and UEFA and other Russian sports bodies are stepping up their legal fight against isolation in sports. 

President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, left, arrives for the men’s downhill at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, in the Yanqing district of Beijing.
(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

IOC president Thomas Bach reaffirmed the decision to ban those athletes in an open letter on Friday, saying while it was clear Russian athletes were not responsible for the war, the fairness and integrity of competitions where Ukrainians could be unable to compete had to be considered.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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