Crisis in Ukraine: Pep Guardiola hails Zinchenko’s support in ‘insane situation’, ex-tennis player Stakhovsky joins fights


Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says it was a difficult time for Ukrainian Oleksandr Zinchenko after Russia invaded his country, but playing football was the best thing for the 25-year-old defender .

Zinchenko was an unused substitute in City’s 1-0 Premier League win over Everton last weekend but returned to charge in Tuesday’s 2-0 FA Cup win at Peterborough after receiving the armband from regular skipper Fernandinho.

“Our captain decided to give him the armband, to show how important the situation is,” Guardiola told ITV Sport ahead of the game. “We are all at the club behind this gesture and behind my captain, who represents his country.”

Guardiola said Zinchenko received a lot of support.

“He got not just (fan support) but all over the world, in the UK, about this insane situation we’re living in right now,” Guardiola added.

“Playing football is the best way for him. We are through to the next round and it was a good night knowing how difficult the FA Cup is away.”

Meanwhile, Everton’s Vitaliy Mykolenko has slammed Russia captain Artem Dzyuba and his international team-mates for their silence on the Ukraine invasion.

The Ukraine defender, who joined Everton from Dynamo Kyiv in January, embraced fellow international Oleksandr Zinchenko ahead of Manchester City’s clash with the Toffees at the weekend as the footballing world’s attention focused on the fate of their country.

But, while support for Ukraine has been widespread, Cherkasy-born Mykolenko is furious that it hasn’t extended to players in the Russian soccer team.

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Vitaliy Mykolenko, Ukrainian Everton player

Vitaliy Mykolenko, Ukrainian Everton player

In an Instagram post in his native language, the 22-year-old said: “While you keep quiet b**** with your football teammates, peaceful civilians are being killed in Ukraine.

“You will be locked in your dungeon for the rest of your life and especially the life of your children. And I’m happy with it.

Mykolenko’s post came the day after Russia were suspended by FIFA and UEFA from all competitions.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday it was learned that Alisher Usmanov, who has sponsorship ties to Everton, had his assets frozen as part of European Union sanctions.

The Uzbek-born billionaire’s USM Holdings is sponsoring Everton’s training ground, with an initial five-year deal announced in 2017.

He also has an option on the naming rights for the new Toffees stadium – a deal worth £30million for the club.

TENNIS

Former tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who joined the fight against the Russian invasion of his home country Ukraine, admits that sports sanctions alone will not stop Vladimir Putin’s army.

Stakhovsky, who was once ranked 31st in the world and beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2013, is among a number of athletes who have traveled to Ukraine to join the resistance effort.

“The support and even the restrictions and sanctions of the Russian federation in terms of sport, culture, it’s great, it works. I’m sure it works,” Stakhovsky said.

“But that doesn’t stop him from doing what he’s doing and someone has to stop him.”

Stakhovsky addressed Good Morning Britain dressed in military fatigues in a stark reminder of the dire situation in Ukraine.

He added: “I would never believe in my life that they would invade on a large scale. But that is Russia’s agenda – to sow chaos and instability in Europe.

“We are being punished because we want a better life and reach out to Europe.

“I’m not really sure we can have a person in the world today who has nuclear weapons capability. We don’t know what he’s going to do next.”

Tennis governing bodies will allow players from Russia and Belarus to compete under a neutral flag, but both countries have been banned from international competition, including the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup.

The Kremlin Cup, a joint ATP and WTA tournament due to be held in October, has also been suspended.

FORMULA ONE

Formula 1 opposed the wishes of the International Olympic Committee by allowing Russian and Belarusian drivers to continue racing.

On a day when athletics followed FIFA and UEFA – which announced that all Russian national teams and clubs would be barred from their competitions indefinitely, banning athletes from those countries from all major events – the F1’s governing body, the FIA, has confirmed that Nikita Mazepin could race on.

Mazepin, the only Russian driver on the grid, will be allowed to race under a neutral flag, “subject to a specific commitment and respect for the principles of peace and political neutrality of the FIA, until further notice”. Mazepin’s Haas team said, “At this time, we decline to comment.”

Haas retired title partner Uralkali for the final day of pre-season testing at Barcelona last week. The Russian fertilizer company is partly owned by oligarch Dmitry Mazepin, Nikita’s father.

The decision by the governing body came after a crisis meeting of the World Motor Sport Council, chaired by FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem on Tuesday.

Earlier, former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat said it would be “unfair” to ban Russians from racing because of the war in Ukraine.

Ben Sulayem, who replaced Jean Todt as FIA President in December, said: “As you know, the FIA ​​is watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and I hope for a quick and peaceful resolution to the current situation. .

“We condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and our hearts go out to all those who are suffering as a result of the events in Ukraine.”

F1 last week canceled the Russian Grand Prix which was due to take place on September 25. The reason, after Tuesday’s meeting, was cited as Force Majeure.

Russian and Belarusian anthems will not be played at any event, while representatives of Russian and Belarusian FIA members have been instructed to “temporarily step down from their duties”.

Ben Sulayem continued: “I would like to thank the members of the Council for their swift action in deciding on these measures in the interest of sport and peace.

“We stand in solidarity with Leonid Kostyuchenko, the President of the Automobile Federation of Ukraine (FAU) and the wider FIA family in the country.

“The actions taken today recognize the authority of the FAU in Ukraine and are also aligned with recommendations recently made by the International Olympic Committee.

“We are in active discussions with our members as we continue to express our compassion and support during these difficult times. We sincerely hope for a peaceful resolution to their intolerable difficulties.”

The announcement came after Ukrainian sports figures vowed to fight for their country.

BOXING

Boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko, a former three-weight world champion, has joined Ukraine’s Territorial Forces, while WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight world champion Oleksandyr Usyk was pictured holding a gun.

Vitali Klitschko, the former WBC and WBO champion, is the mayor of Kiev and has remained in the capital despite an assault by Russian President Putin’s forces.

WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury was asked about his contemporaries at a press conference ahead of his fight with Dillian Whyte.

He said: “I would be the first to join if England got involved, or America.

“I would be on the front line for the job – my dad too, and all the boys. We would all pledge to defend our country. They are doing what they have to do.”

ATHLETICS

All athletes, support staff and officials from Russia and Belarus – who help Russia invade Ukraine – are barred from World Series of Athletics events, including this summer’s World Championships in Eugene .

World Athletics chairman Sebastian Coe said: “Sport must step up and join these efforts to end this war and restore peace. We cannot and must not let this one pass.”

World Athletics chairman Sebastian Coe has said the sport cannot ‘refrain’ from moves to isolate Russia following its invasion of Ukraine (Mike Egerton/PA) Russian athletes have been forced to qualify as Authorized Neutral Athletes (ANA) since National Federation suspension. serious doping offenses in 2015, but athletes in the country who had received ANA status for 2022 will now be banned.

UK athletics head coach Christian Malcolm backed World Athletics’ decision and said: “It’s much, much bigger than sport. And it’s great to see that a lot of people in the world come together to be able to support those who are in this vulnerable situation.

The International Paralympic Committee is meeting on Wednesday to discuss whether to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Beijing Winter Games, which officially open on Friday.

The IPC has confirmed that a full Ukrainian team of 20 athletes and nine guides will travel to China for the Games.

CYCLING

The international cycling union, the UCI, has announced that all events scheduled to take place in Russia or Belarus in 2022 have been removed from the calendar, while all Russian and Belarusian teams will be banned from racing.

However, individual cyclists from these countries will be allowed to continue to compete provided they are riding for a team based outside of Russia or Belarus and no reference to either country is displayed. .

RUGBY LEAGUE

The International Rugby League and the European Rugby League acted on the advice of the IOC and announced that Russian national teams were banned from their events.

SWIM

British swimming said it would not send a team to this year’s World Short Course Championships or the 2024 European Championships, both to be held in the Russian city of Kazan.

The IOC last week recommended that international sports federations – such as FINA, the world governing body for swimming – move or cancel any event scheduled to be held in Russia.

TRIATHLON

World Triathlon, meanwhile, has banned all Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from its events.

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