Schalke chairman Clemens Toennies has been criticised after reiterating the club’s plans to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Bundesliga side are sponsored by Gazprom, a company that has strong ties to the Russian government, but Toennies also underlined Schalke’s desire to honour their deal despite the ongoing situation in Ukraine.
Toennies attempted to defuse the situation by saying “politics is not our playground,” but several editorials in the German press have chosen to lambast his relationship with Putin.
A local Ruhr-Area paper wrote “someone needs to stop [Toennies]” while Peter Tauber, the general secretary of the Christian Democratic Union political party was quoted in Bild as saying sport can “never be free of politics” due to its huge social perception.
Tauber continued: “To accept an invitation to the Kremlin and to be used in this way in the current situation, just shows a lack of sure instinct.”
Members of the North-Rhine Westphalia state parliament added that Toennies had become a vehicle “in the line of duty of Putin’s political propaganda.”
WAZ later reported that a spokesman for Toennies had played down the significance of the potential trip, saying: “There has never been a date for the trip and there is no commitment to a certain date.
“Right now considerations in this matter, because of the current political situation, would not be appropriate.”
Meanwhile, Schalke coach Jens Keller is planning to select Sead Kolasinac after the 20-year-old had been pictured smoking and drinking in a Cologne night club by Bild earlier this week.
The left-back had been celebrating with his teammate Felipe Santana, Schalke legend Gerald Asamoah, and the former Royal Blues forward Kevin Kuranyi and were dubbed the "party pros."
Despite sporting director Horst Heldt announcing a punishment for the two defenders, Keller is set to field Kolasinac in their home game against Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday.
“Both [Kolasinac and Santana] know that they’ve made a mistake, you have prepare professionally,” midfielder Roman Neustaedter told Bild. “But if they perform on Sunday then all is well."