Paris (AFP)- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked widespread backlash in the sports world, with athletes condemning Moscow’s actions amid growing calls for the country to be isolated from international competition.
AFP Sport reviews the main developments:
– St Petersburg have been stripped as hosts of the UEFA Champions League final set for May 28. The match was transferred to the Stade de France in Paris.
– Poland and Sweden have announced that they will not face Russia in the 2022 World Cup play-offs next month. Polish captain Robert Lewandowski tweets: “The right decision. I can’t imagine playing a game with the Russian national team in a situation where armed aggression in Ukraine continues.”
– Everton’s Ukraine team-mates Vitaliy Mykolenko and Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko hug each other ahead of their Premier League match at Goodison Park. Zinchenko was in tears as the crowd unveiled banners, one of which read “We stand with Ukraine”. Manchester United and Watford players stand together with a sign reading ‘peace’ in six languages before their game at Old Trafford.
— German club Schalke 04 are pulling Russian gas company Gazprom out of their shirts. Instead of the sponsor, the players wore the team name on their shirts.
— The roof of the Eintracht Frankfurt stadium has been illuminated in the national colors of Ukraine, blue and yellow. Electronic signs on the ground say “Stop it, Putin!”. Bayern Munich wore black armbands. The only exception was Munich captain Lewandowski, who wore a yellow and blue armband.
– Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin has been declared by head coach Carlo Ancelotti to be ‘in the slum because he is anxious with his mother and friends living in Kyiv’. “My grandfather lived through World War I, my father lived through World War II, and they told me a lot of stories about them,” Ancelotti said. “It’s (the war) a horror, period.”
– The Russian Grand Prix, scheduled for September 25, is canceled, a day after reigning world champion Max Verstappen and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel publicly declared their opposition to race driving. Red Bull driver Verstappen said: “When a country is at war, it’s not good to race there.” Vettel added: “For me, my own opinion is that I shouldn’t go, I won’t go. I think it’s wrong to race in the country.”
– American Formula One team Haas decided not to fly the Russian colors of title sponsor Uralkali on the final day of pre-season testing in Barcelona on Friday. Haas, whose cars typically sport the blue, white and red colors of the Russian flag, raced in a plain white livery.
— Haas has a Russian pilot, Nikita Mazepin. Uralkali, a group specializing in potash, has the driver’s father, businessman Dmitry, as its non-executive director.
– At the Dubai ATP event, Russia’s Andrey Rublev scored his semi-final victory over Hubert Hurkacz by signing the on-court camera lens with the message “No war please”, clearly expressing his feelings about his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
– A second-tier ATP Challenger event, scheduled in Moscow from Feb. 28, is scrapped.
– Ukrainian player Dayana Yastremska says she and her family spent two nights underground in Odessa. “After spending two nights in the underground car park, my parents made the decision at all costs to send me and my little sister out of Ukraine! Mom, dad, we love you very much, take care!!! I you love my country”, wrote the former player of the top 25.
– Poland’s Iga Swiatek swept Anett Kontaveit in the Qatar Open final and dedicated her win to the “suffering people in Ukraine”. “I want to show my support for all the people who are suffering in Ukraine,” said the 20-year-old former French Open champion. “Seeing these images is really moving for me. I wouldn’t even imagine things like this happening in the country next to me.”
— The International Olympic Committee, angered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine violating the “Olympic truce”, has urged all international sports federations to cancel their upcoming events in Russia.
“The IOC EB (Executive Board) today urges all international sports federations to move or cancel their sporting events currently scheduled in Russia or Belarus,” the IOC statement read.
© 2022 AFP