UEFA bans Azeri club official over social media comments

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Europa League - Group I - Maccabi Tel Aviv v Qarabag - Bloomfield Stadium, Tel Aviv, Israel - October 22, 2020 Qarabag's Owusu Kwabena and Kevin Medina REUTERS/Amir Cohen

BERN (Reuters) - An official at Azeri club Qarabag has been provisionally banned by UEFA while he is investigated for potentially “violating basic rules of decent conduct” in comments he made on social media, the European soccer body said on Wednesday.

UEFA said that Nurlan Ibrahimov had also been charged with racist and discriminatory conduct over the comments. It did not give further details and Ibrahimov did not immediately comment.

On Saturday, the Football Federation of Armenia had called for Qarabag to be expelled from European football for comments Ibrahimov allegedly made about Armenians, which it said he had subsequently deleted.

Azerbaijan’s armed forces are battling ethnic Armenian forces in a conflict over the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh which has killed at least 1,000 people since fighting flared on Sept. 27.

Qarabag said in a statement on Sunday that it had opened an internal disciplinary case against Ibrahimov, described as its chief press officer, and said that his comments were not supported by the club.

It said that Ibrahimov had been traumatised while watching footage of the conflict, including the deaths of women and children in Azeri cities, and that he regretted his comments.

Last month, UEFA reprimanded players and officials from Qarabag for performing a military salute during their Europa League qualifying match away to Legia Warsaw on Oct. 1.

Qarabag are currently involved in the Europa League group stage where they face Villarreal, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Sivasspor.

UEFA has banned any club or national team matches in its competitions from taking place in either Armenia or Azerbaijan until further notice.

Writing by Brian Homewood, Editing by Timothy Heritage