Alexander “Sasha” Letino, 21, breaks the contract with Umeå BSKT – days before the premiere.
The reason is, according to Västerbottens-Kuriren, that he did not feel welcome in Swedish basketball because of his Russian background.
– This came like a bolt from the blue for us, says sporting director Luca Romano to Sportbladet.
21-year-old “Sasha” Letino has a Swedish mother and American father but grew up in Russia because the family moved there when he was three years old.
In an earlier interview with Västerbottens-Kuriren, he has said that his Russian background has felt particularly controversial since the war of aggression against Ukraine began.
– Just saying the word Russia is controversial. But just because I grew up in Russia and my family is still there doesn’t mean I support what Russia is doing. It has been very difficult and what people do not understand is that many Russians do not support the war, but they have no choice because they cannot leave the country and they have no other options, he said at the time.
“Lots of shit”
Now he chooses to break the contract – according to VK because he does not feel welcome in Swedish basketball.
Among the reasons for this is a tweet in which a blogger claimed that Letino’s father had “close ties to Putin” and in which he was compared to Jonas Jerebko.
The blogger has since apologized and said it wasn’t “so well written”.
– But that tweet spread and people didn’t check the facts. What was written in the tweet was not true, but people still took it for truth and afterwards “Sasha” apparently got a lot of crap on social media, sports director Luca Romano tells Sportbladet.
Back in Russia
“Sasha” Letino has now returned to Russia.
– It came a bit like a bolt from the blue for us that he felt so bad that he wanted to leave. He just went up to everyone in the team and thanked him but said that “I can’t stay in Sweden”. Then I called him and asked what had happened and he said that many people ask questions about his connection to Russia and that a lot of crap is written on social media. He said he needs to come home and be with his family, Romano said.
The Swedish basketball league 2023/24 kicks off this week and Umeå will face Luleå away in its premiere on Friday.
So you do it without “Sasha” Letino in the team.
– It’s a shame, because it’s a guy who could have helped us and been something for the national team in the long run, says Romano.