When two countries are essentially at war, it’s probably better that their soccer teams don’t play against each other. Earlier today, UEFA ruled that teams from Russia and Ukraine won’t go head-to-head in the 2014-15 Champions League or Europa League tournaments.
The Champions League third qualifying round draw is on July 18th, and there was a possibility of Zenit Saint Petersburg (Russia) and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine) being drawn together.
“In light of the current political situation, the Russian Football Union and the Football Federation of Ukraine have expressed concerns about safety and security in the case of Russian and Ukrainian teams being drawn against each other in UEFA competition,” UEFA said in an official statement.
“After evaluating the request and taking into account the safety and security situation in the region, the UEFA Emergency Panel has decided that Ukrainian and Russian teams cannot be drawn against each other until further notice”.
UEFA matches can be played in the Ukranian cities of Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa, Kiev and Lviv, however.
Some might say that sports help us see the humanity on both sides of a struggle and help cool tensions rather than raise them. We’ll never know, but the “potential risks,” as Russian Football Union’s Secretary General Anatoly Vorobyov put it, were too great for such a noble experiment.
UPDATE: This seems even more like the right decision today, in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines tragedy. A commercial airliner was reportedly shot out of the sky above Ukraine, killing hundreds of people, and now Ukrainian and Russian officials are pointing fingers at one another. It’s believed that pro-Russian separatists shot down the plane, thinking it was a military aircraft.
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