Issue 66, March 2014.

2015 EuroBasket in Ukraine In Doubt

Finally, the turmoil across Ukraine has called into question whether Ukraine will be ready to host the EuroBasket Championship in 2015; a tournament of which Lviv is set to be a host city. Construction delays have been noted all over the country, while there are obvious security risks in both Kyiv and Odessa. “FIBA Europe fully understands the problems and issues that the organisers are currently facing because of the political instability in the country,” the governing body said in a press release. “FIBA Europe will continue to stay in close contact with them as well as continue to monitor the situation independently. ”As not a single one of the six venues is yet to be completed, there is a very real risk of the tournament being moved to another location. This would be a big blow to the future of Ukrainian basketball, just at the time when the Ukrainian National basketball team is set to participate in its first-ever World Basketball Championships this summer in Spain.

Ukraine Draws Spain, Belarus in Easy EUROs 2016 Qualification Draw

While every team in Europe has an easier road to qualify for the EUROs 2016 tournament in France thanks to UEFA’s decision to expand the tournament from 16 to 24 teams, it will be difficult to imagine a much easier draw for the Ukrainian National football team. The Ukrainians, ranked 10th in Europe, should be able to take one of the two automatic qualification spots in Group C after being drawn together with Spain, Slovakia (25th in Europe), Belarus (37), Macedonia (43), and Luxembourg (47). The two games against Spain, still ranked #1 in the world, will give the Ukrainian squad their only chances to gauge their preparation for the big stage in France. Originally Gibraltar, the newest team recognized by UEFA, had been drawn into the group, but they were removed as Spain opposes the membership of Gibraltar in UEFA. The competition is set to begin in September as Ukraine plays host to Slovakia at Olympic Stadium in Kyiv. Ukraine is set to host Spain on 12-October-2015 in Kyiv. In other EUROs- related news, it appears that the turmoil in the country is having an impact on the chances of Kyiv or Donetsk to be chosen as one of the hosts for the EURO 2020 tournament, which is set to be hosted in cities across the continent. As Shakhtar Donetsk CEO Sergei Palkin told BBC, "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 explained. "UEFA will not risk it. No one knows when the crisis will be finished."

Civil Unrest Disrupts Ukrainian Football

With the nation’s eyes turned toward the political events in Kyiv and Crimea over the last few months, there has been more talk of the country’s football supporters – the so-called ‘Ultras’ – and their role in the protests than there has been about the state of the game on the pitch. Indeed, the recent turmoil has had a great impact on football in Ukraine; from the postponement of the Ukrainian Premiere league to venue changes for major international and European Cup matches to the flight of players and managers from major teams, football has taken a backseat to politics since the EuroMaidan began. Firstly, by request of the Interior Ministry, the Football Federation of Ukraine postponed the spring round of the Premiere League “until later spring” (it turned out to be March 15th). The league plans to resume play despite the Russian military incursion into Crimea: “People are tired of politics,” argues Shakhtar Donetsk CEO Serhiy Palkin, [Ukrainians] do not want war but peaceful competition on the football pitch.”

However, recent important competitions set to be played in Ukraine have instead been held in Cyprus. Dynamo Kyiv, whose home stadium provided the backdrop to some of the most surreal pictures of the unrest on Hrushevskoho, dropped a 2-0 match to Valencia in the Europa League’s Round of 32 while the Ukrainian National team defeated the World Cup-bound American squad 2-0 on March 5th. While Ukrainian coach Mykhaylo Fomenko hoped that Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Devic’s goals would “make the country happy for one night”, it was the solemn atmosphere of the small 1,500 person crowd that observed a moment of silence and waved banners such as “No War in Ukraine” and “Ukraine is Undivided” that was much more noticeable. The turmoil has affected many of the premiere teams in Ukraine as well. The ownership of several clubs, including Europa League Top-32 squads Metalist Kharkiv and Chornomorets, have ties to deposed former President Viktor Yanukovych. Both teams have seen star players and/or management leave for lack of payment or security reasons. Certainly, security remains a concern for the resumption of Ukrainian Premiere League matches. The league has said it would turn to the Ultras – the same groups that protected EuroMaidan protesters across the country – to ensure fan safety when matches resume.