MOSCOW: French midfielder Lassana Diarra trained with Lokomotiv Moscow Wednesday for a Russian Premier League game after dismissing rumors that he had become a jihadist in the Syria war.
“In Syria??? Lol nice joke guys have a good evening on twitter,” the 29-year-old Frenchman said of the social media speculation on his Twitter account.
“It’s rubbish, nothing else,” Lokomotiv spokesman Denis Novoselov told AFP. Diarra’s French lawyer earlier called the reports “absurd.”
Novoselov dismissed an Internet video which has sparked press speculation. “The guy in that footage doesn’t look like Lass [Diarra] at all. It’s obvious for anybody who has seen Diarra just once.”
Novoselov said Diarra, who has recovered from an injury, was training ahead of a weekend match against his old club Anzhi Makhachkala. Diarra does not wish to make any further comment on a “silly story,” added the spokesman.
British tabloid the Daily Mirror reported this week that a former Arsenal footballer had gone to Syria where the war is now into a fourth year. The article did not name the player but fueled social media rumors.
Diarra “has never set foot in Syria,” his French lawyer Eric Dupond Moretti said Tuesday. “It’s absurd. He is not a jihadist, he is a footballer with Lokomotiv Moscow.”
Diarra, 29, has played for English sides Chelsea, Arsenal and Portsmouth as well as Real Madrid. He moved to Russia in 2012 to join Anzhi, before joining Lokomotiv last summer.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 10, 2014, on page 8.