Georgian captain Kakha Kaladze has taken issue with a decision by FIFA, soccer's world governing body, to move his team's World Cup qualifier Saturday against Ireland to the German city of Mainz.
"I and many of my teammates continue to ask ourselves why this decision was taken," the AC Milan defender said in an interview Thursday with the Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport.
"There is no civil war in Georgia. We are not dangerous. What would happen if we played in the stadium in Tbilisi? Nothing. It would only be a festival for thousands of people who are suffering."
Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war last month, and Moscow's recognition of two separatist Georgian regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as independent nations has brought tensions with the West to their highest level since the end of the Soviet Union.
Kaladze said his mother was frightened by the war.
"Even though I was safe in my house in Milan, I was scared about what was happening in my country," Kaladze said. "But we Georgians have pride. My family did not flee Tbilisi. Nobody fled."
The national team is considering wearing black armbands, Kaladze said, adding that the squad has already raised money for families hit by the fighting.
"We'll try to give our people a moment of serenity," he said.
Kaladze also appealed to AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi, who is also Italy's prime minister.
"I thank the French President [Nicolas] Sarkozy for trying to convince the Russians to take a step back. And I'm also sure my president, Berlusconi, will not remain insensitive to Georgia's appeal," Kaladze said.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Wednesday urged Russia to quickly fulfil its commitment to fully withdraw its forces from Georgia before an EU delegation led by Sarkozy travels to Moscow on Monday.
Georgia's next game is against World Cup champion Italy in Udine on Wednesday, and Italy announced it is planning maximum security for the game, which again upset Kaladze.
"We're seeking messages of solidarity," he said. "Not fear."
Kaladze's brother Levon was abducted in Georgia in 2001. Despite reports that his family paid the kidnappers $600,000 US in ransom, he was never freed. A headless body discovered in an unmarked grave in 2005 was identified as his in 2006 through DNA analysis.