Ukraine league to resume next weekend despite crisis
Ukraine flag - REUTERS
REUTERS

KIEV: Ukraine’s Premier League will kick off again on March 15 despite the political turmoil in the country that has put the championship on hold since the winter break, the football federation (FFU) said on Friday.

Shakhtar Donetsk chief executive Serhiy Palkin, who had called for the league to resume after Russia’s military intervention in Crimea forced a postponement, welcomed the decision announced on the FFU website.

“We have to make all possible efforts not to allow Ukraine to be split,” he said on his Facebook account.

“Ukrainian clubs must play an important role in it. People are tired of politics, they do not want war but peaceful competition on the football pitch.”

The League said it would seek help from fans’ leaders to ensure the safety of supporters inside and outside the stadiums.

The political and financial crisis, the most serious east-west confrontation since the end of the Cold War, has dealt a heavy blow to already struggling clubs in Ukraine. Many are facing bankruptcy and have lost players.

Three clubs, including Europa league last 16 participants Metalist Kharkiv and Chornomorets, are especially vulnerable to the political situation since their owners are linked to ousted President Viktor Yanukovich.

Moscow-backed Yanukovich was overthrown last month after violent pro-Western protests in Kiev. Russian forces have subsequently seized control of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.

Metalist head coach Myron Markevich and former Denmark player Frank Arnesen, who was officially introduced as the new sporting director in February, have resigned.

Markevich, 63, stood down last month while Arnesen’s departure was announced on Friday with the Dane telling the club website: “The situation in Ukraine made me make a choice. I wish Metalist and Ukraine all the best in these troubled times.”

“We were promised all financial issues would be settled before the New Year, but later I found out the club did not have money even for food supplies,” Markevich, who had coached Metalist since 2005, told local media.

“Salary was paid with huge delays. The worst is that some players were paid and others were not. There was complete anarchy, no one ran the club.”

Players anxious

Metalist’s Ukraine striker Marko Devic has been sold to Russia’s Rubin Kazan to keep the club afloat while a group of five key Chornomorets players quit as free agents from the heavily indebted club.

Top foreign players at financially-stable Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk are also anxious about getting match practice ahead of this year’s World Cup in Brazil.

Dynamo Kiev’s recent Europa League game had to be switched to Cyprus along with a friendly international against the United States.

Bids for high-profile sporting events are also in the balance.

The country, which successfully co-hosted the Euro 2012 soccer championship with Poland, hopes to stage matches at Euro 2020 with Donetsk and Kiev having submitted bids.

The tournament will be held across Europe, with governing body UEFA due to announce the host cities in September.

However, Shakhtar Donetsk chief executive Sergei Palkin has told the BBC he believes Ukraine will almost certainly miss out.

“The political situation in our country will influence (the decision) and therefore, to be honest, I do not think they will give us anything,” he said. “UEFA will not risk it. No one knows when the crisis will be finished.”

Ukraine also faces a challenge to retain the 2015 European basketball championship with construction deadlines likely to slip due to the political crisis.

“The unstable situation caused by the actions of the Russian Federation puts obstacles in the way of preparations for Eurobasket-2015,” tournament director Markiyan Lubkivsky said in a statement.

Ukraine is also bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics in the Western city of Lviv, which is close to the border with Poland and was one of the Euro 2012 venues.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has yet to draw up a shortlist of candidates.

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