Former tennis pro serving in Ukrainian army calls out Tottenham's Antonio Conte over Russian athlete comments

Stakhovsky, who joined the Ukrainian army after retiring earlier this year, shared a direct message on his Instagram story that he sent directly to Conte, asking him to “please wake up” after his seemingly insensitive choice of words. 

TOTTENHAM MANAGER ANTONIO CONTE SYMPATHIZES WITH BANNED RUSSIAN ATHLETES: ‘IT’S NOT FAIR’ 

“I am not sure you understand the situation in Ukraine,” a screenshot of his message stated, according to Eurosport. “Otherwise, I cannot imagine you would make a comment which would sound like you are sad about Russian athletes and businessmen.

Ukraine's Sergiy Stakhovsky returns the ball to France's Gilles Simon in their men's singles first round match during the 2019 French Open tennis tournament in Paris.

Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky returns the ball to France’s Gilles Simon in their men’s singles first round match during the 2019 French Open tennis tournament in Paris. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images)

“Millions of Ukrainians had to flee their homes because of the Russian invasion. Millions have to leave through hell in their own cities while Russian planes and artillery bombard them.. Please wake up.. Russians will have to carry collective guilt for the destruction and killings they are committing in Ukraine.”

Conte, an Italian-born coach who previously spoke out against the war, expressed his sympathy for Russian athletes this week amid the near-complete isolation Russia is facing in the sports community. 

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“I repeat, it’s very sad that this serious situation, this war between Russia and Ukraine, is affecting football and the sporting [world]. To know that Russia athletes are banned from competition is very sad,” he told reporters, via Football London

Manager Antonio Conte of Tottenham Hotspur during a Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Everton at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium March 7, 2022, in London. 

Manager Antonio Conte of Tottenham Hotspur during a Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Everton at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium March 7, 2022, in London.  (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.”

Similarly, Women’s Tennis Association Chief Executive Steve Simon said Tuesday the tour has no intention of banning athletes from those countries.

“You never know what the future may bring,” Simon said. “But I can tell you that we have never banned athletes from participating on our tour as the result of political positions their leadership may take.

Stakhovsky, who famously beat Switzerland's Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2013, signed up for Ukraine's military reserves. He patrols to protect Kyiv in military fatigues and with a Kalashnikov assault rifle. 

Stakhovsky, who famously beat Switzerland’s Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2013, signed up for Ukraine’s military reserves. He patrols to protect Kyiv in military fatigues and with a Kalashnikov assault rifle.  (Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images)

“It would take something very, very significant for that to change, but again we don’t know where this is going.”

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Tuesday to uphold the Union of European Football Associations’ ban. A ruling on FIFA’s ban and the decision to give Poland a bye for its World Cup qualifying match against Russia on March 24 are expected to come sometime next week. 

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