MOSCOW: Russia's national football team said on Sunday it would not be calling up its captain Artem Dzyuba for upcoming international matches this month to shield him from negative publicity.
Its statement followed the leak of an private video online on Saturday, which TASS news agency said showed a man similar to the 32-year-old Dzyuba, who is also the striker for Zenit St. Petersburg. There was no suggestion of any controversial behaviour in the video and it was not clear how it had leaked.
Asked for comment, Dzyuba's PR team referred Reuters to the press service of Zenit football club, which did not respond to a request for comment sent on Sunday.
"The team needs to prepare for November matches against Moldova, Turkey and Serbia in the most focused way possible, and can not allow itself to be distracted by external things," head coach Stanislav Cherchesov was cited as saying, in comments published on the official Twitter page of the national team.
"Consequently, the decision was taken today not to call up Artem Dzyuba ... in order to shield both the team and the football player himself from excessive negativity and tension," Cherchesov was cited as saying.
The national team's reserve list for the November matches includes just one striker - Fedor Smolov from Lokomotiv Moscow - the RIA news agency reported.