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Roman Zozulya's 'right to work' defended by La Liga chief Javier Tebas

Roman Zozulya Real Betis
Roman Zozulya has made six La Liga appearances for Real Beits this season.

La Liga president Javier Tebas has said the league has taken has taken legal action against 10 people who threatened Roman Zozulya after his loan move to Rayo Vallecano in order to defend the player's "right to work."

La Liga announced on Thursday that it had "brought a criminal action on charges of coercion against 10 individuals believed to be responsible for forcing Rayo Vallecano player Roman Zozulya to temporarily renounce joining the Madrid team, the club he had been loaned to by Real Betis."

The Ukraine striker was confronted by angry fans, who falsely accused him of being linked to a right-wing paramilitary group, during his first training session at Rayo last Wednesday.

Zozulya returned to Seville the next day "very affected" and has yet to announce if he will play for Rayo.

"La Liga cannot allow for someone to be scared and unable to exercise his right to work," Tebas told Onda Cero radio.

"I believe in Zozulya's case it wasn't an issue of freedom of speech but rather coercion and that is why we have brought a criminal action."

Rumours regarding Zozulya's political affiliation date back to last summer when a Spanish newspaper journalist misidentified a Ukrainian national emblem on a shirt that Zozulya was wearing upon his arrival to Betis from Dnipro as a neo-Nazi symbol.

The article was withdrawn and the newspaper apologised to the player.

Before arriving at Rayo, Zozulya wrote an open letter to supporters of the club, which has a large left-wing fan base, making clear he is not a "neo-Nazi".

Zozulya, under contract with Betis until June 2019, can only play for Rayo this season as league rules state that players cannot register for more than two teams in one campaign.

"La Liga will guarantee Zozulya and his family's safety if he decides to play at Rayo," Tebas said.

La Liga warned that it will take additional legal action against any other individuals that exhibit similar behaviour.

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.

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