Two Ukrainian players in opposing Premier League teams shared a poignant embrace during the warm-up on Saturday, while crowds at games across the competition round showed their support for the 44 million people of the European nation.
Andrey Rublev, who beat Jiri Vesely in straight sets to win the Dubai Tennis Championships overnight, scrawled “No war please” across the broadcast camera lens after his semi-final victory.
After the match the world No.7 said: “In these moments you realise that my match is not important. It’s not about my match [or] how it affects me because what’s happening is much more terrible. You realise how important it is to have peace in the world and to respect each other no matter what and to be united. We should take care of our Earth and of each other.”
Ice hockey superstar Alex Ovechkin, who plays for Washington in the NHL and is a notable Putin supporter, also spoke out against the invasion.
“Please, no more war,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter who is in the war, Russia, Ukraine, different countries. I think we live in a world that we have to live in peace.”
The 12-time NHL All-Star, who has played in the North American competition since 2005, has been a long-time Putin supporter, receiving a tea set from the Russian leader as a wedding gift and regularly appearing in photographs with him.
Ovechkin also launched “Putin Team” in the US in 2017, a self-described “social movement” to support Putin from abroad.
Also on Saturday, it was announced that Poland would boycott its FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Russia next month in response to the invasion, with Sweden following suit hours later.
The Polish football association made the announcement on Twitter and said the team was in talks with other federations to present a unified position to FIFA.
The Polish national team published a joint statement with its association, saying the move was not an easy decision.
“There are more important things in life than football,” the statement read. “Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian nation and our friend from the national team, Tomasz Kedziora, who is still in Kyiv with his family.”
Kedziora plays in Ukraine with team Dynamo Kyiv.