Over the past 14 months, the international community has actively worked to send aid to Ukraine as the Russians continue their unnecessary invasion. During this period, the globe has provided hundreds of billions of dollars in humanitarian, medical, financial, and defense assistance to this Eastern European country. International aid has allowed Ukraine to defend itself from the ongoing Russian invasion.
Ukrainians have many groups to thank, one of which is the European football family. When the war began, FIFA and UEFA announced that Russian clubs and national teams would be suspended from all international competitions. This meant Russia could not participate in the 2022 FIFA World Cup or the 2024 European Championships.
Dozens of clubs across the continent have also provided their own aid to Ukraine. While the war has entered its second year, European football shows no signs of easing its assistance to Ukraine. Instead, European football clubs will continue to provide aid until the war ends. These efforts have also united clubs with their supporters, which have together unequivocally condemned the Russian invasion. The kindness and selflessness of these aid efforts have strengthened communities across the continent.
For example, German club Borussia Dortmund and their supporters, were some of the first to condemn the war. This is nothing new for the club, as BVB have previously participated in events to raise funds for those in need. In 2021, the German club raised €295,000 to help those impacted by floods in Germany. More recently, they have raised funds for those suffering after the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Thus, when the Russian invasion began, it was no surprise that BVB offered their support for Ukraine.
“Borussia Dortmund as a whole club has unequivocally condemned Russian aggression from the very beginning of the war,” a spokesperson from the club stated.
“Football is the most beautiful sport in the world,” the spokesperson added. “But there are things that are so much more important: peace, health, a sense of home, and education. In the heart of Europe, all of this can no longer be taken for granted. That is why we are standing by the Ukrainians, and why we have, together with the whole BVB family, already brought several tons of aid to the country. This is what we stand for as BVB.”
The BVB community is fully invested in these efforts. For example, volunteers and club supporters gathered to pack nearly two thousand boxes full of food and equipment for Ukrainians in need. BVB also organized charity transport, where goods and services were delivered to Mykolaiv, a Ukrainian city that has been heavily impacted by the Russian invasion. The aid has helped make a difference for those still residing in the city.
Outside of this work, BVB organized numerous fundraisers to donate to Ukraine and still do so.
“The club is looking for additional measures to help the people of Ukraine in the most effective way possible,” the spokesperson concluded. “It is of great importance to the entire BVB family to continue supporting [Ukraine] – and this is why we #StandWithUkraine.”
Other prominent clubs have participated in these efforts. In Spain, Real Madrid raised over €1 million in aid to Ukraine during the first year of the war. Real also donated 20 power generators to Ukraine to help citizens prepare for the recent cold winter. In addition, the Real Madrid Foundation sent over 13,000 pieces of clothing to Ukrainian refugees impacted by the war.
“We want to show our solidarity and support to the people of Ukraine, a people currently experiencing the injustice of war,” Real Madrid shared in a statement when the war began. The Spanish club will continue to provide aid to Ukraine.
On a larger scale, both the English Premier League and the English Championship have been very supportive. When the Russian invasion began, representatives from the English top tier met to discuss how they would express their solidarity for Ukraine. On Matchweek 28 during the 2021/2022 season, footballers across the league posed beside Ukrainian flags, they held moments of silence, and their clubs collaborated with their supporters to raise money for Ukraine. For example, Leeds United and West Ham United designed matchday programs to promote awareness about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Stadium screens presented the message “Football Stands Together” ahead of kickoff, and club captains wore blue and yellow armbands that resembled the Ukrainian flag.
Fans of various EPL clubs have also been very involved in these efforts. For example, tens of thousands of Leicester City supporters participated in a fundraiser to help Ukraine. In a matter of days, the fans raised £30,000 in appeal aid for Ukraine.
“The Leicester City family has a strong history of uniting in support of those in need,” Leicester City Chief Executive Susan Whelan stated. “I would like to offer my thanks to our fans for generosity and kindness in support of such a worthy cause.”
One year later, the EPL has continued to stand in solidary with Ukraine. On Matchweek 25 of the current season, club captains once again wore blue and yellow armbands. Similarly, stadium screens presented the message “Football Stands Together” ahead of each match.
Finally, former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich started a foundation to send financial aid to Ukraine. Abramovich has pledged to donate £2.3 billion to charitable causes in Ukraine. The UK government is now seeking official EU approval before the money can be sent to Ukraine. (At the start of the war, Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government due to his ties to the Russian government and Russian president Vladimir Putin.)
In the Championship, Queens Park Rangers have actively worked with Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk to collect power generators for Ukrainians under the slogan: “European Football Powers Up Ukraine.” Meanwhile, Cardiff City launched a Disasters Emergency Committee to collect food, water, and medical assistance for Ukrainians in need. The club also recently held two fundraisers in March to collect financial aid for Ukraine.
The efforts of the parties involved suggest that football stands together in times of hardships. The contributions from the aforementioned groups in Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom show that there is a strength in numbers, and that there is a sense of unity and community between the clubs and their supporters. It also highlights the generosity and kindness of the parties involved. While the war continues, these organizations and their fans show no signs of easing up in their aid efforts, and they are actively involved and seeking new ways to help Ukraine.
Finally, numerous teams across Europe and Asia participated in Ukraine’s Global Tour for Peace. Last summer, Ukrainian clubs Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv organized charity matches to raise money for Ukraine. The Ukrainian men’s national team also participated in this charity tour.
Over the summer of 2022, Shakhtar faced teams such as Olympiacos, Lechia Gdańsk, Fenerbahçe, Hajduk Split, Ajax, and Roma. Shakthar raised a collective €885,000 from these matches. Meanwhile, Dynamo organized matches against clubs such as Legia Warsaw, Galatasaray, Borussia Dortmund, Dinamo Zagreb, Basel, Young Boys, Olympique Lyonnais, and Everton. Dynamo raised over €752,000 in these efforts. The aid collected from this tournament was sent directly to UNITED24, a Ukrainian government initiative that is helping rebuild the country. In this case, these funds were used to restore Ukraine’s “urban infrastructure, construction of bridges, roads, water utilities, thermal power plans, schools, kindergartens and more.” In other words, the assistance provided by the clubs that participated in this charity tour had a profound impact on helping restore Ukraine.
Overall, the actions of BVB, Real, the EPL, and several other clubs and organizations suggest that there is a sense of unity on the European continent. The work of these groups has had a profound impact on the lives of Ukrainians affected by the war, and it has established a stronger community across the football world. Through their generosity and actions, these clubs and their supporters have preached UEFA’s mission of promoting solidarity and peace across the European continent.
The words of former South African President Nelson Mandela, that “Sport has the power to change the world,” continues to be exemplified by the support shown to Ukraine by UEFA and football clubs all across Europe.
Mark Temnycky is an accredited freelance journalist covering Eastern Europe and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. He can be found on Twitter @MTemnycky
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