By Igor Nitsak and Jahmal Corner
Ukraine’s soccer friendly against the United States on Wednesday in Cyprus will be played under the slogan “Peace for Ukraine!,” the Football Federation of Ukraine said on its website on Tuesday.
Federation president Anatoliy Konkov earlier said Ukraine had changed its mind about cancelling the match as a sign of respect for the United States.
“After announcing our intention to cancel the flight to Cyprus for a friendly against the U.S. soccer team and with regard to the military aggression of Russian Federation in Ukraine’s autonomous region of Crimea, I received numerous phone calls from public and football representatives who expressed various views on this decision,” Konkov said.
Konkov held a series of meetings with team coach Mykhaylo Fomenko and Minister of Youth and Sport Dmytro Bulatov.
“As a result we arrived on a common idea we should play the scheduled friendly with U.S. soccer team as they represent the country that stood up to defend our national interests and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Konkov said.
“This is a very important decision to raise the patriotic spirit of the Ukrainian people. It must unite the country and show the whole world how high our flag waves and how proudly sounds the anthem of the independent state.”
Konkov had said on Monday that Ukraine would not travel to Cyprus for the friendly, originally scheduled to be played in Kharkiv but moved because of Ukraine’s unstable political situation and following U.S. requests.
“We cannot hold the national championship so what kind of football can we talk of at all? If we do not have an opportunity to play on home soil, why shall we go to Cyprus in these troubled times for our country?” Konkov said.
“We play for our people and country. Our team do not fly to Cyprus and stay at home,” he told the ICTV channel.
Ukraine’s Premier League has postponed the restart of the domestic championship after the mid-season break following Russia’s military intervention.
Russian President Vladimir Putin received permission from his parliament on Saturday to use military force in Ukraine. The stated purpose was to protect ethnic Russians following the ousting of Ukraine’s Russian-backed president a week ago.
Putin got the green light from parliament after Russian forces had already gained control of Crimea, an isolated Black Sea peninsula with an ethnic Russian majority and where Moscow has long had a naval base.
The United States is preparing to impose sanctions on Russia for its military intervention in Crimea, although no decision had yet been made, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.