Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked widespread reactions in the sports world, with athletes condemning Moscow’s actions while calls increase for the country to be isolated from international competition.
Saint Petersburg 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.
Poland and Sweden say they will not play Russia in next month’s 2022 World Cup play-offs. Polish captain Robert Lewandowski tweets: “The right decision. I cannot imagine playing a match with the Russian national team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues.”
Ukraine team-mates Vitaliy Mykolenko of Everton and Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko embraced before their Premier League game at Goodison Park. Zinchenko was in tears as the crowd unveiled banners including one that read “We stand with Ukraine”. Manchester United and Watford players stand together with a sign saying “peace” in six languages ahead of their game at Old Trafford.
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German club Schalke 04 remove Russian gas company Gazprom from its shirts. In place of the sponsor, players carried the team name across their shirts.
The roof of Eintracht Frankfurt’s stadium was lit in Ukraine’s national colours of blue and yellow. Electronic signs at the ground read “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 was said by head coach Carlo Ancelotti to be “down in the dumps as he is anxious with his mother and friends living in Kyiv”. “My grandfather experienced World War I, my father lived through World War II, and they told me lots of stories about them,” said Ancelotti. “It (war) is a horror, full stop.”
The Russian Grand Prix, scheduled for September 25, is cancelled, a day after defending world champion Max Verstappen and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel publicly declared their opposition to driving in the race. Red Bull driver Verstappen said: “When a country is at war, it’s not right to run there.” Vettel added: “For myself, my own opinion is I should not go, 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 on Friday. Haas, whose cars usually sport the blue, white and red colours of the Russian flag, ran in a plain white livery.
Haas have a Russian driver, 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 marked his semi-final win over Hubert Hurkacz by signing the camera lens on the court with the message, “No war please”, clearly stating his feelings about his nation’s invasion of Ukraine.
A second-tier ATP Challenger event, planned for Moscow from February 28, is scrapped.
Ukraine player Dayana Yastremska said she and her family had spent two nights sheltering underground in Odessa. “After spending two nights in the underground parking, my parents decided 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.
Poland’s Iga Swiatek swept aside Anett Kontaveit in the Qatar Open final and dedicated her victory to “the people who are suffering in Ukraine”. “I want to show my support to all the people who are suffering in Ukraine,” the 20-year-old former French Open champion said. “Seeing those images is emotional for me. I wouldn’t even imagine stuff happening like that in the country next to me.”
The International Olympic Committee, angry at the Russian invasion of Ukraine breaching the ‘Olympic Truce’, urged all international sports federations to cancel their forthcoming events in Russia.
“The IOC EB (executive board) today urges all international sports federations to relocate or cancel their sports events currently planned in Russia or Belarus,” read the IOC statement.