Ukrainian league kicks of in defiance of war

Moscow/Lviv, Ukraine, Aug 23 (EFE).- Ukraine’s football league is poised to get underway Tuesday despite the hostilities in the country six months after Russia invaded its smaller neighbor.

“This is a unique initiative in history,” said Andriy Pavelko, president of the Ukrainian Football Association (UAF). “Football against war in war conditions. Football for peace.”

The last Ukrainian league season also kicked off in summer, but never resumed from a three month break prompted by Russia’s war, which began on February 24 this year.

Two teams have dropped from the starting list for obvious reasons. Mariupol, besieged and captured by the Russians in May, and Chernihiv, which was battered by Moscow’s troops in the early days of the invasion.

“The main issue in organizing the league is the security of the participants,” Pavelko, who only announced its go-ahead on August 12, added.

Security arrangements for the season have been agreed on between the Ukrainian armed forces, the security forces and local authorities.

The fact that the time and location of the games in the second week of the season are still not known is not down to lack of organization but is rather a security measure.

To that same end, matches will take place without fans and with a military presence.

Should an air raid siren sound during a match, players and staff will have to take refuge at shelters situated not far from the ground.

“Playing football tournaments during the war is not only about sport. It also demonstrates the courage of our people,” Pavelko said.

This season kicks off with Shakhtar Donetsk against Metalist 1925. Shakhtar have not played in their home stadium since 2014, when Donetsk fell into the hands of pro-Russian separatists. A lot has changed since Donetsk staged games in the 2012 Euros.

Ukrainian football has witnessed a flight of international talent during the war. Shakhtar, who have dominated the scene for the last 20 years, always had around a dozen Brazilians in their ranks.

Players like Marcos Antonio, Ismaili, Dodo and Marlon have all left for the Italian and French leagues.

Ukraine’s big derby between Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar will take place in mid-October . EFE


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