Against the backdrop of political unrest involving Russia and Ukraine, there will be a timeout today for a friendly match involving the men’s soccer teams from the United States and Ukraine.
The match, which was moved from Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine to Larnaca, Cyprus, earlier this week, will begin at 1:30 p.m. EST and will be shown on ESPN2. Although it was not immediately clear earlier this week whether the U.S. team would even have an opponent, Ukrainian players arrived Tuesday and were prepared to set aside concerns as best they could.
“It’s a dangerous situation,” Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Ukraine’s captain, said (via the Associated Press). “We have our families. We worry, but we hope that we can keep the peace in Ukraine as quickly as possible.”
Members of the U.S. team were expecting an emotional match. How could it not be with the match’s “Peace for Ukraine” slogan dedicating it to the country’s citizens?
“I’ve been following what’s been happening,” goalie Tim Howard said (via the New York Times), “and some of the reports on the TV have been hard to watch. It feels kind of strange to be playing a team you don’t know what their mental state will be. They’ll be worried about their homeland and their families, so playing football at a time like this must be very difficult.”
Politics aside, the game is an important one for the United States, with World Cup play in Brazil less than 100 days away and only four other remaining warmups. Ukraine did not qualify for World Cup.