Dest, a 19-year-old defenseman who plays for Ajax in the Netherlands’ top-tier pro soccer league, traveled with his team to Doha for midseason training. However, he opted to fly back to the Netherlands last Saturday after U.S. airstrikes killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and sparked fears of an escalated military conflict.
"Sergino Dest asked if he could leave the training camp of Ajax in Qatar," Ajax said in a statement. "He did not feel comfortable. Ajax understands his request and has responded to it."
Dest flew back to the Netherlands on a private jet in order to avoid close proximity to Iran and Iraq, sources familiar with the matter told ESPN. The teenage star will train with other Ajax players who didn’t make the trip in the meantime.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran rose earlier this week after Tehran launched a retaliatory missile strike on U.S. installations in Iraq. The attack prompted the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to ban U.S. flights from passing through Iraqi and Iranian airspace.
U.S. officials said Thursday that a Ukrainian International Airlines flight that crashed within hours of the Iranian attack may have been inadvertently shot down by the Iranian military, Fox News reported.
Dest committed to play for the U.S. men’s national soccer team last October. His decision to leave Ajax’s training camp in Qatar came less than one week after U.S. Soccer canceled a planned training trip to Qatar for the men’s national team due to safety concerns.