An incident during a flight to Moscow for the Russian Rugby League team saw them grappling with an abusive drunken passenger and nearly being taken into custody after being classed as illegal immigrants on Monday morning.
Widnes based, John Stankevitch, coach of the Russian International Rugby League team – the ‘Bears’ – was returning to Moscow with his players after their heavy defeat by Italy on Saturday to prepare for their game in Russia this weekend against Lebanon.
A drunken & abusive passenger on the flight from Frankfurt to Moscow had to be restrained by the Russian Rugby players, resulting in the man being restrained with cable ties by the air crew. Following the incident the pilot turned the aeroplane around and headed back to Frankfurt, where the drunken man was taken into police custody.
Head Coach John Stankevitch described the scene.
“A man at the front of the plane became drunk and abusive and became involved in an incident with a fellow passenger not involved with our tour party and he also became abusive and violent towards the air crew. Some of our players rescued the situation and assisted the air crew to restrain the air crew and secure handcuffs to his wrists.”
“On arrival in Frankfurt, we were informed that the air crew had flown more than their allotted hours and that the flight would now depart five hours later, which was another huge blow to us.” He said.
But the worst was yet to come for the Russians as the unscheduled return to Frankfurt meant that the visas for the team were now out of date, as the team had been expected to return to Moscow well advance of their expiration at midnight.
“It had been a fairly eventual flight so far and I assumed that this would be the end of our problems but, Alexander, our team captain informed me that our visas had expired. It was now 2 AM on the morning of October 17th and they had expired at midnight on October 16th, now two hours ago. This meant that the players were on German soil illegally without visas and could be taken into custody as illegal immigrants. We were in deep trouble.” Said Coach Stankevitch.
But British based Stankevitch, who is currently head coach of Co-operative Championship One side, Rochdale Hornets and a former player for St Helens, used his diplomatic skills to negotiate the safe passage of his charges back to Moscow.
“After negotiation with senior immigration officials they agreed to strike through the exit visas that had already been used once so that we could depart Frankfurt, which was a huge relief to all concerned. He said. “Otherwise we would have been facing a longer stay in Germany”. He added.
“We’re back in Moscow safely now and looking forward to a couple of days off. The flight wasn’t the ideal preparation for another tough game this weekend, but at least we’re back safely. “ Said Stankevitch.