“Since Russia invaded Ukraine, firstly in 2014, but in far greater and deadlier numbers on February 24th 2022 the country has been isolated politically, economically and culturally. And Russia has been suspended from UEFA and FIFA. But they want to qualify for the 2026 World Cup. How could they do that? Would they have to move federations? Well, it has been done before. James Montague explains. Philippe Fenner illustrates.” YouTube
“‘It was an incredible, emotional moment for me to spend time with her,’ Andriy Shevchenko says as he describes meeting a little Ukrainian girl called Maryna last month. The most famous former footballer from Ukraine, who won the Ballon d’Or in 2004 and the Champions League with Milan before he also coached his country at Euro 2020, pauses as he reflects on a simple encounter where he kicked a football back and forth in hospital with the six-year-old. …” Guardian
“From the late 19th century and into the 1920s, Vienna became what many writers have called a ‘centre of fermentation’, propagated by the cultural and intellectual elite of the city. Ideas, ideaologies, social movements, progressive medicine, music and literature filled the air of Vienna’s cafés and coffee houses. The Vienna Circle, a group of philosophers hell-bent on bringing scientific enlightenment to people, also emerged from the city. Football also benefitted from this culture of cerebral curiosity. …” Game of the People Game of the People – Crossing the Danube – the story of the inaugural Mitropa Cup W – Mitropa Cup Nations which participated in the Mitropa Cup (1927–1940)
“James Maddison may have had to wait over three years for his second England cap, but his performance against Ukraine as he made his full debut yesterday should ensure he won’t wait as long for his third. Many people have been scratching their heads as to why England manager Gareth Southgate had been so reluctant to give Maddison another go after his substitute appearance against Montenegro in November 2019. …” The Athletic
Police officers during an opposition rally.
“There will be no supporters in the stands of Stadion Karadorde, in the Serbian city of Novi Sad, when Belarus begin their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a ‘home’ match against Switzerland on Saturday. Nor, in many eyes, will there be much excuse for the fact their meeting is taking place at all. Belarus are the competition’s pariahs: virtually friendless bar this weekend’s hosts and condemned to play all of their games on foreign soil for the foreseeable future, they will play on despite the deep sense of unease around their participation. Last March Uefa banned Belarus from playing on their own territory on account of the country’s supporting role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. …” Guardian Guardian: Russia has seamlessly returned to football – and nobody seems overly perturbed
Olympiacos fans during a Europa League match in September. It hosts its most bitter rival, league-leading Panathinaikos, this weekend.
“Olympiacos called it the Match for Peace. On April 9 last year, a little more than a month after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Greek club staged a friendly with Shakhtar Donetsk. It was a heartfelt, poignant sort of occasion, the first game Shakhtar had played since it had fled a war in its homeland. Before the game, each of Shakhtar’s players emerged with Ukraine’s flag — cornfield yellow, summer blue — draped over their shoulders. Both teams’ jerseys were adorned with the slogan: ‘Stop War.’ All proceeds from ticket sales for the game, held at Olympiacos’s Karaiskakis stadium in Piraeus, would be used to help support refugees from the fighting. …” NY Times
“Celtic Park in Glasgow is among the most partisan football grounds in Europe – you don’t want to be on the wrong end of this crowd. But Celtic fans know the world, and last September was different: home supporters lined the approach to the stadium, to greet and applaud the visitors’ coach as it arrived for a big night in the Champions League. Aboard it: Shakhtar Donetsk, the Ukrainian champions who had not played a game at home for nine years, since Russian separatists and armed forces occupied their city in 2014. The crowd cheered the bus, and – poignantly – among the home fans’ Irish tricolours were flags of blue and yellow, those of Ukraine, waved by a group of children – refugees from the war that ravages their homeland, now settled in Glasgow. …” Guardian
“The Premier League has been asked to confirm whether it has investigated the billionaire owner of Manchester City Football Club under its ‘fit and proper’ owners’ test, over allegations of helping Russian oligarchs avoid western sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, the deputy prime minister of the UAE and a member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, has been accused in media reports of helping to allow rich Russians to evade sanctions by moving their assets, including superyachts and private jets, to the Emirates. …” Guardian
“… I was supposed to be there in Kyiv with my mum. It had been her birthday a couple of days before and we were going to have a family dinner at her place with my sister and a few friends. I’d even booked my flights from the 19th to 29th, but because of some paperwork I’d had to do in the U.K., I’d changed my flight out for the 26th. A few hours after my mum’s call, videos started to come in from friends and on social media. Russian helicopters over our land, missiles hitting our roads, bridges and airports, huge traffic jams of people fleeing Kyiv. In a single day, thousands of people who had spent all their lives in Ukraine became refugees. …” The Players Tribune
“… Only last Wednesday did Pavelko feel certain the sport would return on the date, one day before the celebration of Ukrainian independence, he had earmarked. That was when the security protocols were finally signed off after exhaustive conversations that were not always plain sailing. Should fans be allowed in? That question was easy enough to answer during wartime. Ought the precise time and location of games be kept secret? That was up for discussion but ultimately rejected. What will happen if and when air raid sirens interrupt play? Nobody can be entirely sure how that will feel but games may be abandoned if they sound for longer than an hour. Referees will confer with military advisers to make that decision. …” Guardian
“‘My heart aches when I think of Kharkiv,’ says goalkeeper Denys Sydorenko. ‘A missile hit our training ground – there’s nothing left of where we used to play.’ On 22 February, Sydorenko’s team, Metalist 1925 Kharkiv, were taking part in a regular training session during the Ukrainian Premier League’s winter break. Two days later, everything stopped. Russia had invaded. Now, six months into the war, Ukraine is preparing to resume its domestic football competitions – despite the constant danger the ongoing conflict brings. The decision to cancel the remainder of the 2021-22 football season was finally taken in April. Shakhtar Donetsk were leading by two points with just over half of the matches played. …” BBC
“Five months ago, footballers in Ukraine could not afford to give a second thought to their sport. The horrors being inflicted by Russia’s invading forces left nobody untouched and the act of staying alive, while ensuring the same of their loved ones, was all that mattered. Many players left their clubs for the country’s west, basing themselves in relatively calm locations; some sheltered underground with their families and, in a number of cases, teammates, for days on end. …” Guardian (July 24)
Shakhtar’s chief executive Sergei Palkin is scathing of FIFA’s conduct
“Ukrainian football club Shakhtar Donetsk are seeking €50million worth of damages from football’s world governing body and the club has filed papers in the Court of Arbitration for Sport appealing against a ruling by FIFA that allows foreign players to unilaterally suspend their contracts in the war-torn country. The Athletic can exclusively reveal that Shakhtar, who have won the Ukrainian championship 13 times in the post-Soviet independence era since 1992, filed the documents to Matthieu Reeb, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) director general in Switzerland, in July. …” The Athletic
“CARDIFF, Wales — When it was over, when the referee blew his whistle and the crowd roared and Ukraine’s dream of earning a place in this year’s World Cup was gone, most of its national soccer team dropped straight to the grass. A few players held their heads in their hands. The rest simply stared off into space. The scoreboard confirmed what, in that moment, even the Ukrainians themselves could scarcely believe: Wales 1, Ukraine 0. A World Cup qualifying journey laced with symbolism and spirit and national pride, an opportunity delayed three months by war with Russia and reaching its denouement on a day that had begun with explosions in Kyiv, the first direct airstrikes on the capital in a month, had ended not in triumph but in the cruelest of twists: defeat to Wales on an own goal scored by a Ukraine forward, Andriy Yarmolenko. …” NY Times Guardian: Kyiv locals put Ukraine’s defeat into context after World Cup near miss
“Once Gazprom were cut as UEFA partners and Aeroflot was jettisoned as a blue chip Manchester United sponsor, an isolated discussion returned to the Russian football sphere – Europe can go get stuffed. And once clubs and national teams were banned from UEFA competitions on may We’re off to join Asia! …” Backpage Football
“Chernihiv is the largest Ukrainian city to have been freed from Russian occupation. Its pre-war population was estimated at around 280,000. After being under siege for more than a month only a third of that figure remains. Seven hundred people have lost their lives, according to official sources. Before the Russian invasion on 24 February, the city was little known around the world. It is situated 150 kilometres northeast of Kyiv and just 60km from the border with Belarus, on the banks of the Desna river. In Ukraine, Chernihiv was known for its wonderful churches, chic parks and great promenades by the river. …” Guardian
“… That is the exhausting but grimly necessary reality for Zinchenko and his compatriots. Every action is cast in the shadow of Russia’s invasion, with its barbaric consequences, and among the biggest concerns is that people outside become desensitised. It simply would not do and, on an Easter weekend when professional commitments bring an FA Cup semi-final for Manchester City against Liverpool, he wants to use his platform. For almost an hour his anger pours out, sometimes in controlled rage but often in raw expressions of hurt. Words can capture people’s attention but, in whatever order, they still cannot rationalise exactly what is happening inside Ukraine. …” Guardian W – Oleksandr Zinchenko
“Far away, at the other end of the pitch, a Ukrainian footballer is scoring what later turns out to have been a beautifully worked goal. That is something remarkable in itself but Oksana is talking and the backdrop has become a detail. She is thinking about the train she will board in around nine hours; it will return her to Kyiv, at last, and from there she will join the volunteer effort in Bucha. The home she left is 10 miles further south, in Boyarka. Like most of the capital’s satellite towns, it has undergone its own visit to hell. …” Guardian W – FC Dynamo Kyiv
“It wasn’t the sounds of the bombs, though he did hear those, that brought back the memories for Darijo Srna. It was the air raid sirens. When they blared in Kyiv shortly after 6 a.m. on Feb. 24, Srna froze in terror. His mind flooded with thoughts and recollections of his childhood, of his first experience with war, when the former Yugoslavia broke apart in the 1990s. Since then, soccer has taken Srna, 39, far from his home in Croatia to a distinguished career, the bulk of it with the Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk, where he is currently the director of football, and to games in the Champions League and at two World Cups. But in an instant, the sounds of sirens brought it all back. …” NY Times
“When the war broke out in the early hours of 24 February, Oleksandr Petrakov, the manager of Ukraine’s men’s national football team, chose not to leave his home in the capital, Kyiv, as the Russians advanced and shells dropped, but to try to join the fight. … A Russian speaker from childhood, Petrakov now sticks to Ukrainian in public and while some are sad about Vladimir Putin’s war and others are angry, he admits to a more visceral emotion. ‘It’s just hate. It is not anger, but people hate those who invaded their land. We need time to calm down but for now it is just hate. They have broken our countries for years.’ …” Guardian (April 1) W – Oleksandr Petrakov
“Normality is another world for Shakhtar Donetsk. When Russia invaded Ukraine, football was stopped and the lives of the players, coaches, staff and fans were turned upside down in an instant. There was no time to waste with lives at stake as the autumn’s Champions League games against Real Madrid and Internazionale quickly became a distant memory. Sergei Palkin, the chief executive, has been at the forefront of the club’s humanitarian efforts and ensuring the safety of players from the academy to the first-team captain. …” Guardian
“One by one, late on a Friday evening, Robert Lewandowski called his Poland teammates. They were scattered across Europe, and most of them were busily preparing for club games that weekend, but his question could not wait. They had all seen the footage emerging from Ukraine: Russian tanks rolling across the border, Russian artillery bombarding cities and towns, Ukrainian refugees flooding out of the country, hundreds of thousands of them seeking shelter in Poland. In a matter of weeks, Poland was scheduled to face Russia in a crucial World Cup qualifier. …” NY Times
Hammers ahead Andriy Yarmolenko, born in Ukraine, scored his staff’s opening objective within the win. With Russia’s invasion on Ukraine persevering with, there isn’t a doubt that his coronary heart is heavy and hurting.
“Josef Kordik was sitting in a cafe in Kyiv when a bedraggled man on the street caught his eye. That, he was sure, was Myklova Trusevych, the great Dynamo goalkeeper. He rushed outside. It was spring 1942, a few months after the city had fallen to the Nazis. Kordik was a Moravian who had been left behind after fighting for Austria-Hungary in the first world war. He had not enjoyed his new life and watching football had been his only joy, but the occupation had meant opportunity. He had falsely claimed Volksdeutsch status and been installed as manager of Bakery Number 1. But for most people occupation had brought suffering. Trusevych had sent his wife, who was Jewish, to Odesa to escape the fighting. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson Guardian – ‘The worst possible nightmare’: voices from Ukrainian football as war rages
“In the basement of their family home, the wife of Taras Stepanenko took refuge underground, accompanied by the couple’s three children, aged eight, seven and four. The explosions started in the middle of the night, the thuds of artillery thundering in the distance. As the family sheltered, the Ukrainian international footballer Stepanenko organised. His home, near to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, is located close to woodland and set against the Dnieper river. … Yet now, he is one of the millions hiding within their own borders. He has been stripped, at least temporarily, of his career and his freedom. …” The Athletic
Russia’s national teams and Russian clubs are barred from all competitions.
“World soccer’s global governing body suspended Russia and its teams from all competitions on Monday, ejecting the country from qualifying for the 2022 World Cup only weeks before it was to play for one of Europe’s final places in this year’s tournament in Qatar. The suspension, which was announced Monday evening in coordination with European soccer’s governing body, also barred Russian club teams from international competitions. The decision came a day after FIFA was heavily criticized for not going far enough in punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and amid mounting demands from national federations for stronger action. …” NY Times