Amid the Russia-Ukraine crisis, Napoli and Barcelona players have banded together to display a ‘Stop War’ banner ahead of their Europa League Round of 16 playoff match.
The action comes on the same day that Russia declared war on Ukraine, escalating tensions in Eastern Europe in a move that might have far-reaching consequences.
After being eliminated from the Champions League in the group stage, the Catalan giants are playing in the event for the first time since 2004.
Napoli advanced through the Europa League group stages, edging out Leicester City for the final qualifying berth.
The banner was raised by players from both teams ahead of their encounter in Naples as a symbol of unity and the removal of division.
In other Europa League action, Ruslan Malinovskyi, a Ukrainian playmaker, unveiled a ‘no war in Ukraine’ undershirt after scoring for Atalanta against Olympiacos.
During Dinamo Zagreb’s Europa League match against Sevilla earlier on Thursday, fans held a banner reading “Support To The People Of Ukraine.”
In the meanwhile, due to the developments, UEFA is anticipated to transfer the Champions League final away from Saint Petersburg.
The season’s highlight event was supposed to take place on May 28 in the Russian capital, but recent news has made that look highly doubtful.
Because of the crisis, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared on Wednesday that Russia should have “no chance” of hosting football competitions.
And, according to various sources, the final will be rescheduled, with an announcement anticipated as soon as Friday morning.
Aleksander Ceferin, the president of UEFA, has convened an extraordinary meeting, and it is understood that contingency measures are being worked up for the game’s location.
“Following the development of the situation between Russia and Ukraine over the last 24 hours, the UEFA president has decided to convene an extraordinary meeting of the executive committee on Friday, February 25 at 1000 CET (0900 GMT), to assess the situation and take all necessary decisions,” UEFA said in a statement on Thursday.
“Further communication will be given after the UEFA executive committee meeting,” says the statement.
Gazprom, a Russian majority state-owned energy business and one of the Champions League’s top sponsors, is the main sponsor of Saint Petersburg’s stadium.
The UEFA-Gazprom partnership is estimated to be worth £33 million every season. In addition, the Russian firm is one of the official worldwide sponsors for Euro 2024.
The Football Supporters Europe (FSE), an independent fan-led organization, has called on UEFA to provide an “immediate” statement about the Champions League final.
The FSE’s official Twitter account tweeted, “On this awful day, our thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine, our friends, colleagues, members, and their loved ones.”
“Given the current situation, we anticipate a quick announcement from UEFA about the Champions League final’s relocation from St Petersburg.”
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