Football’s global players association FIFPRO has announced two Ukrainian footballers have died defending their country following Russia’s invasion.
Fighting in Ukraine has entered the seventh day following Vladimir Putin’s call for a special operation to demilitarise and ‘denazify’ the country – a justification dismissed by Kyiv and the West as propaganda.
But now The International Federation of Professional Footballers has confirmed Vitalii Sapylo, 21, and Dmytro Martynenko, 25, lost their lives in combat and have become the first football casualties of the war.
A FIFPRO statement read: ‘Our thoughts are with the families, friends and team-mates of young Ukrainian footballers Vitalii Sapylo and Dmytro Martynenko, football’s first reported losses in this war. May they both rest in peace.’
Sapylo – a goalkeeper who was part of third-division side Karpaty Lviv’s youth team – joined the Ukrainian army as a tank commander but is said to have died defending the capital Kyiv last Friday.
His club Karpaty Lviv labelled him a ‘hero’ after announcing he had been killed in battle.
A club statement confirming his death was also released on just the second day of the invasion, adding: ‘We cherish the eternal memory of this hero.’
His father Roman Sapilo, 44, meanwhile told German outlet BILD: ‘He was such a happy, fun-loving boy. It was an airstrike by that damn Putin. He took my child from me.
‘He really wanted to fight. First, one tank broke down, then the second. But under no circumstances did he want to leave the front. He asked for a third party. This armour has brought him eternal sleep.’
Martynenko – who last played for second-division side FC Gostomel – meanwhile died alongside his mother after Russian bombs hit his home in an apartment block in the capital.
Professional skier Yevhen Malyshev was also killed while fighting in an attempt to stop Putin’s forces from advancing.
The 20-year-old was part of his country’s junior team but put his career in sport to the side two years ago to serve in the military.
The Ukrainian Biathlon Federation confirmed his death in a statement, which said: ‘We deeply sing to the homeland, to friends and family. Eternal memory by Yevhen Malyshev.’
An International Biathlon Union statement meanwhile read: The IBU expresses its deepest condolences on the loss of former Ukrainian biathlete Yevhen Malyshev (19), who died this week serving in the Ukrainian military.
‘The Executive Board once again condemns the Russian attacks on Ukraine and the support provided by Belarus.’
A number of past and present Ukrainian sports stars – including heavyweight boxer Wladimir Klitschko and his brother Vitali, as well as Oleksandr Usyk, 35, and Vasyl Lomachenko, 34 – have also enlisted in their country’s army.
Fierce fighting however has continued and is underway in Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv this morning after Russian paratroopers dropped in and attacked a military hospital before airstrikes targeting police, state agencies, and the security service.
Part of Karazin National University was on fire early Wednesday with the building partially collapsed after a missile – seemingly intended for the neighbouring police headquarters or interior ministry building – struck the college’s department of sociology instead.
At least 21 people have been killed and 112 wounded in shelling on Kharkiv in the last 24 hours, governor Oleg Synegubov said, as an interior ministry official added: ‘There are practically no areas left in Kharkiv where an artillery shell has not yet hit.’
It came as the Russian army renewed its assault on Ukraine after punishing losses in the early days. Putin’s forces captured Kherson, in the south, overnight though the mayor remained defiant – posting on Facebook: ‘We are still Ukraine. Still firm.’ Mariupol, also in the south, came under renewed shelling.
The sporting world has reacted to the invasion ordered by Putin, banning Russia from several events.
Russia was kicked out of the Qatar World Cup by FIFA earlier this week, with Poland given a bye to a play-off final against Sweden or Czech Republic later this month.
FIFA had appeared reluctant to expel Russia from the World Cup given president Gianni Infantino’s close links to Vladimir Putin but on Sunday they made it clear that they would be guided by the IOC — and that the sporting world should be united in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
UEFA also kicked Spartak Moscow out of the Europa League and terminated a sponsorship deal worth £33.5million a year with Russian energy company Gazprom.
The IOC recommended similar bans be introduced by all sports, with the possible exception of the Winter Paralympics due to the proximity of the Games, which begin in Beijing on Friday.
World Rugby then left Russia’s hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in France in tatters by banning them from all of their competitions. The ITF then banned both Russia and Belarus from team tennis events.
Ukrainian footballers meanwhile have used social media to call for peace, with the likes of Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko, Everton left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko, and West Ham forward Andriy Yarmolenko uniting in a passionate video plea to urge fans, players, and coaches to ‘stop the destruction and bloodshed in their homeland following Russia’s devastating invasion.
They were joined on Tuesday by Ukraine legend Andriy Shevchenko – who managed his country at Euro 2020 – in sharing a video message of peace.
Source: Daily Mail