Andriy Yarmolenko restates the need for Russia to be isolated from the sporting world


Ukraine captain Andriy Yarmolenko has called for the complete and continuing isolation of Russia from professional sport after UEFA confirmed the country would be excluded from qualification for Euro 2024.

Speaking on the eve of Wednesday’s Nations League match against Scotland at Hampden, the former West Ham star said it should be impossible to consider seeing ‘terrorist’ Russia represented on the field of play while its army killed civilians in his homeland.

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

UEFA yesterday declared the nation would have no place in the Euro 2024 qualifying draw scheduled to take place in Frankfurt on October 9.

Yarmolenko’s comments came as it was confirmed Ukraine manager Oleksandr Petrakov had been fined an undisclosed amount and warned by European football’s governing body for stating he was ready to take up arms against Vladimir Putin’s forces. Petrakov dismissed the minor sanction and stressed he stood by his words.

Bosnia and Herzegovina have agreed to play a friendly against Russia in St Petersburg in November, a decision which has drawn angry criticism from high-profile Bosnian players Miralem Pjanic and Edin Dzeko.

Andriy Yarmolenko reechoed calls for governing bodies across sport to take a hardline stance against Russia

Asked about the situation concerning Russian involvement in top-level sport, Yarmolenko insisted more governing bodies should follow UEFA’s example.

‘My thoughts are quite simple,’ said the 32-year-old, who now plays for Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates. ‘Russian football, Russian sport, should be totally isolated.

‘This is a country of terrorists. A country that kills Ukrainians, kills Ukrainian children. We cannot just talk about sport when something that terrible is happening.

‘All Ukrainian players, they want Russia to be isolated on every level. We cannot allow Russia to take part in any competition while its army are killing the civilian population in Ukraine. So the stand of the Ukrainian team is pretty unified. Russia should be banned from anything.’

The Ukraine captain for Wednesday evening's clash against Scotland said Russia was a country of terrorists who must be dealt with appropriately

The Ukraine captain for Wednesday evening’s clash against Scotland said Russia was a country of terrorists who must be dealt with appropriately

Russia won't participate at Euro 2024, which will be hosted by Germany and they will be absent from the qualifying draw in Frankfurt on October 9

Russia won’t participate at Euro 2024, which will be hosted by Germany and they will be absent from the qualifying draw in Frankfurt on October 9

Yarmolenko scored the opening goal for Ukraine in June’s 3-1 win over Scotland in the World Cup play-off semi-finals.

That was the country’s first competitive fixture following the Russian invasion. With the war now in its seventh month, Yarmolenko stressed their patriotic motivation remains every bit as strong.

‘Nothing has changed since last time,’ said the forward. ‘We still have war in Ukraine and we want to bring joy to the Ukraine fans, so we are going to play for our country, our people, everyone who is living these days in our country.

‘We want to distract the Ukrainian people from war, from all this terror and incredibly hard situation. The team wants to bring a smile at least for 90 minutes to the faces of Ukrainians back home.’

Ukraine have happy memories of Hampden Park, having won at the ground in June of this year

Ukraine have happy memories of Hampden Park, having won at the ground in June of this year

While Wales denied Ukraine a place in the World Cup finals, there could be no question over the superiority of Petrakov’s side over Scotland on their last visit to Glasgow.

Yarmolenko is happy to be stepping back out at Hampden with a chance to all but seal top spot in this Nations League section. Yet he is wary of a much-improved display by the hosts.

‘I remember Hampden, the memories are brilliant but, at the same time, that’s history,’ he continued. ‘We have a new game, a new battle, and we have to concentrate and be totally attentive to what will happen this time.

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

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

A Ukrainian unit ride tanks as they take back territory taken by Russia earlier in the conflict

A Ukrainian unit ride tanks as they take back territory taken by Russia earlier in the conflict

Ukraine coach Oleksandr Petrakov was fined and warned by UEFA after comments on the war

Ukraine coach Oleksandr Petrakov was fined and warned by UEFA after comments on the war

‘We know how to play and, hopefully, we are going to win. But we know that’s going to be tough because it’s Scotland, who are a really strong team.’

Petrakov was clear he had no regrets over his words on Russia, despite UEFA delivering a small financial punishment.

Speaking in April, the 65-year-old said: ‘If they come to Kyiv, I will pick up a weapon and defend my city.’ He added: ‘I think I could take two or three enemies out.’ The Russian Football Union wrote to UEFA with a call for Petrakov to be banned, accusing him of discriminating against their country and failing to remain politically neutral.

In a Facebook post yesterday, the head of the Ukrainian Football Association, Andrii Pavelko, stated UEFA had only issued a fine, which the organisation had paid.

‘I will say again whatever I said before,’ insisted Petrakov. ‘This is clearly the Russian Football Federation and their legal team. Whatever they are doing is their business.

Russia's national football team have been banned qualifying for the 2024 Euros in Germany

Russia’s national football team have been banned qualifying for the 2024 Euros in Germany

‘I will say again and I’m standing by my words.

‘I have no idea about the amount of money (for the fine). I was told by the Ukrainian Football Association president about what happened at UEFA.

‘I have no other knowledge about the size or nature of that fine. It’s okay.’

Association chief Pavelko accused Russia of ‘distraction tactics’ ahead of Hampden.

‘The Russian hysterics about the head coach of the national team of Ukraine, Oleksandr Petrakov, is not worth the slightest attention because their ill-mannered complaint has long been considered by UEFA,’ wrote Pavelko.

The funeral of a Ukrainian military serviceman is held in the capital Kyiv over the weekend

The funeral of a Ukrainian military serviceman is held in the capital Kyiv over the weekend 

‘Of course, there is no ban and could not have been. There was a warning and a minor fine that the Ukrainian Football Association had the honour of paying.

‘So, in vain, the Russians are trying now — on the eve of an important match for the Ukrainian national team — to distract our preparations.

‘Everyone is as focused as possible on this and preparing to support our boys.

‘P.S. At the same time, the Russians have nothing to prepare for. As demanded, Russia will not be in the Euro 2024 qualifying draw in Frankfurt, Germany on October 9 and until at least 2024 will not be in official international football competitions.

‘Euro 2024 will pass without an aggressor country! Glory to Ukraine!’

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