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Professional athletes among the unlikely heroes in the fight for peace in Ukraine

ATHLETES

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Cerith Gardiner - published on 02/28/22

The sports community is playing an integral role in the war in Ukraine.

Whether you’re looking at the news or scrolling through your social media feeds, it’s impossible to miss all the articles about athletes responding to the war in Ukraine.

From international sporting associations banning Russia from major competitions, to sports stars from both Ukraine and Russia taking a stance that could cost them their lives, it’s a message that is resonating loudly in the sports community and beyond.

And in fact it seems fitting that the world of sport is sending this message. Good sportsmanship is all about competing respectfully, and following the rules. It helps reinforce the moral values we hold dearly, while encouraging players to fight for a purpose.

Fighting spririt

Consider the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, the 6 ft 7 in father of three who used to be a heavyweight world champion boxer. While the politician could leave the fighting to others, he’s joined the battle, along with his fellow champion boxer brother, Wladimir, to fight for their people.

vitali klitschko

Then you have the numerous Ukrainian soccer players — past and present — who have ditched their lucrative careers either playing or coaching to fight for their homeland. Oleg Luzhny, who played for Arsenal at the height of his career according to Metro, stated:

“The situation is horrific. I want to come to coach in the UK but before anything I will stand firmly and fight for my people, for my country and for democracy,” adding, “We all hope this will be over soon as innocent lives are being lost and families are being torn apart.”

Striving for unity

On the actual soccer (football for everyone outside North America!) pitch itself, opposing players Oleksandr Zinchenko, who plays for Manchester City, and Vitalii Mykolenko, who plays for Everton, took time in the warm-up before the match to hug each other in support of their homeland. The fans also offered their support through encouraging banners, applause, and chants.

As the Everton manager, Frank Lampard shared,

“The power of sport, we’ve seen in the last few days in many ways. I know how much heart is in this club from owner, to chairman, to fans, to players and we wanted to show that. We have a player with Vitaliy on our side and Zinchenko on their side, and our fans and their fans [came] together. That is the unity of sport and a lot of people on the outside could learn from that as well.”

And the support for Ukraine is also coming from the other side of the frontier. Russian tennis player, Andrey Rublev, bravely showed his feelings at the end of a tennis game by writing on a video camera, “No war please.”

“In these moments you realize that my match is not important,” Rublev said during a press conference, as reported in People. “So it’s not about my match, how [it affects] me. Because what’s happening is much more terrible. You realize how important it is to have peace in the world and to respect each other no matter what and to be united.”

A positive influence

The call for peace is echoing throughout the world. And in fact the world’s biggest “influencer,” Cristiano Ronaldo, the Manchester United soccer player who has amassed a record-breaking 406 million followers on Instagram alone, his message of peace has reached a staggering number of impressionable fans, young and old, looking to their sports hero for inspiration.

CRISTIANO RONALDO

These are just a handful of the inspiring stories coming from the world of sports. We pray that their plea for peace will resonate loudly down the corridors of the Kremlin.

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Inspiring storiesSportsUkraine
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