Sports

World Cup ban? Star donates prize money: Sport reacts to Russian invasion of Ukraine

PARIS, France, Feb 27 – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked widespread reaction in the sports world, with demands even for the country to be booted out of this year’s World Cup.

AFP Sport looks at some of the main developments:

FOOTBALL

— Reigning world champions France call for Russia to be kicked out of the 2022 World Cup. “The world of sport, and especially football, cannot remain neutral. I certainly would not oppose the expulsion of Russia,” said French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet.

— FIFA tell Russia to play home matches at neutral venues, ban its flag and anthem. Russian teams to play as the “Football Union of Russia”. The governing body admits, however, it will continue its dialogue with other sports organisations to determine additional measures “including potential exclusion from competitions”.

— The Polish FA insist once again that they will not play Russia in a World Cup play-off. “Today’s FIFA decision is totally unacceptable,” tweeted Polish FA president Cezary Kulesza. “Our stance remains intact: Polish National Team will NOT PLAY with Russia, no matter what the name of the team is.” Poland are due to play in Moscow on March 24. Should Russia win, they are scheduled to host the winners of a match between the Czechs and the Swedes on March 29. Sweden and the Czech Republic have also refused to play Russia.

A ‘Football Stands Together’ message is displayed in Ukrainian colours ahead of the English League Cup final football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium © AFP / JUSTIN TALLIS

— Saint Petersburg were stripped as hosts of UEFA’s Champions League final set for May 28. The game has been switched to the Stade de France in Paris.

— At Wembley on Sunday, Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson carried flowers in Ukraine’s yellow and blue colours onto the pitch before kick-off in the League Cup final. One supportive banner in Ukraine’s blue and yellow colours read “You’ll never walk alone” in reference to Liverpool’s anthem.

— On Saturday, Chelsea’s billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich said he was handing over the “stewardship and care” of the Premier League club to the trustees of its charitable foundation. In his statement, there was no mention of the crisis in Ukraine.

TENNIS

— Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina pledges to donate her prize money from forthcoming tournaments to her country’s military and aid groups. “I commit to redistribute the prize money of my next tournaments to support army and humanitarian needs and help them to defend You, our country,” wrote the 27-year-old, who was born in Odessa, on Twitter. Svitolina, a former world number three now at 15 in the rankings, is next due to play at Indian Wells in March where the champion receives $1.2 million.

— At the Dubai ATP event, Russia’s Andrey Rublev marked his semi-final win over Hubert Hurkacz by signing the camera lens on court with the message, “No war please”.

Underground shelter: Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine at the 2021 Indian Wells tournament © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File / CLIVE BRUNSKILL

— Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska said she and her family spent two nights sheltering underground in Odessa. “After spending two nights in the underground parking, my parents made a decision at any cost to send me and my little sister out of Ukraine! Mom,Dad, we love you very much, take care of yourself!!! I love you my country,” the former top-25 player wrote.

FORMULA ONE

— The Russian Grand Prix, scheduled for September 25, was cancelled, a day after defending world champion Max Verstappen and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel publicly declared their opposition to driving in the race. Verstappen said: “When a country is at war, it’s not right to run there.” Vettel added: “I will not go. I think it’s wrong to race in the country.”

— American Formula One team Haas decided not to sport the Russian colours of its title sponsor Uralkali during the last day of pre-season testing in Barcelona.

BOXING

— Boxing’s four major sanctioning bodies — the International Boxing federation, World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization — said in a joint statement they will not sanction bouts in Russia. “Just as the world claims for cease of fire, our organizations have decided to not sanction any boxing championships in Russia,” they said.

JUDO

Out: Putin takes part in a training session with members of the Russian national judo team in Sochi in 2019 © SPUTNIK/AFP/File / Mikhail KLIMENTYEV

— Russian president Vladimir Putin was suspended as honorary president of the International Judo Federation (IJF). Putin, an accomplished judoka who was awarded an eighth dan in 2014 — one of the highest levels in the sport, had been honorary president since 2008.

FENCING

— Ukrainian fencers withdrew from the world championships in Cairo to avoid a match with Russia. The male Ukrainian team, dressed in the yellow and blue of their national flag, downed their swords and picked up signs to protest. “Stop Russia! Stop the war!,” the signs read, written in English. “Save Ukraine! Save Europe”.

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