Wednesday, October 5, 2022

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Andriy Yarmolenko reiterates the need to isolate Russia from the sports world

Ukraine captain Andriy Yarmolenko has called for Russia’s complete and continued isolation from professional sport after UEFA confirmed the country would be banned from qualifying for Euro 2024.

On the eve of Wednesday’s Nations League game against Scotland in Hampden, the former West Ham star said it was impossible to see “terrorist” Russia on the pitch while his army was killing civilians in his home country.

Russia has been banned from UEFA and FIFA competitions since the start of its invasion of Ukraine in February, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissing an appeal against the ban in July.

UEFA yesterday announced that the nation has no place in the Euro 2024 qualifying draw, which is due to take place in Frankfurt on October 9.

Yarmolenko’s comment came as it was confirmed that Ukraine coach Oleksandr Petrakov had been fined an undisclosed amount and warned by European Football Association for saying he was ready to take up arms against Vladimir Putin’s forces. Petrakov rejected the minor sanction and stressed that he stood by his words.

Bosnia and Herzegovina have agreed to play a friendly against Russia in St Petersburg in November, a decision that drew furious criticism from top-class Bosnian players Miralem Pjanic and Edin Dzeko.

Asked about Russia’s involvement in elite sport, Yarmolenko insisted that more governing bodies should follow UEFA’s lead.

“My thoughts are very simple,” said the 32-year-old, who now plays for Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates.

“Russian football, Russian sport, should be completely isolated.

“This is a terrorist country. A country that kills Ukrainians kills Ukrainian children. We can’t just talk about sports when something so horrible is happening…

“All Ukrainian players want Russia to be isolated at all levels. We cannot allow Russia to compete while its army is killing civilians in Ukraine. So the standings of the Ukrainian team are quite consistent. Russia should be banned from everything.’

Yarmolenko scored Ukraine’s opener in June’s 3-1 win over Scotland in the semi-finals of the World Cup play-offs.

That was the country’s first competitive game since the Russian invasion. With the war now in its seventh month, Yarmolenko stressed that her patriotic motivation remains just as strong.

“Nothing has changed since the last time,” said the striker. “We still have war in Ukraine and we want to bring joy to Ukrainian fans, so we will play for our country, our people and everyone who lives in our country nowadays.

“We want to distract the Ukrainian people from the war, from all this terror and this incredibly tough situation. The team wants to put a smile on the faces of the Ukrainians at home for at least 90 minutes.”

While Wales denied Ukraine a place in the World Cup, Petrakov’s side were undeniably superior to Scotland on their last visit to Glasgow.

Yarmolenko is happy to retire at Hampden and have a chance to almost finish first in this Nations League section. Still, he’s wary of a much-improved host performance.

“I remember Hampden, the memories are brilliant but at the same time it’s history,” he continued. “We have a new game, a new fight and we have to focus and pay full attention to what’s going to happen this time.

“We’re just thinking about winning this game. It’s always like that in football.

“We know Scotland are a really strong team but we also have to think about our game.

“We know how to play and hopefully we will win. But we know it’s going to be difficult because it’s Scotland who are a really strong team.”

Petrakov made it clear that he has no regrets about his words on Russia, despite a small financial penalty imposed by UEFA.

In April, the 65-year-old said: “If they come to Kyiv, I will take a gun and defend my city.” He added: “I think I could take out two or three enemies.” The Russian Football Union wrote to UEFA demanding that Petrakov be banned, accusing him of discriminating against his country and not remaining politically neutral.

In a Facebook post yesterday, head of the Football Union of Ukraine Andrii Pavelko stated that UEFA only imposed a fine, which the organization paid.

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