Support for Ukraine: Sportspersons
Support for Ukraine: Sportspersons
As the war in Ukraine continues, many sportspersons have stepped in to help those affected.
When Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the aggression was widely condemned, including by many in the sports world. The invasion led to sanctions against Russia and Belarus and many sports bodies moved to boycott Russia and Belarus from participating and competing in their events and competitions.
With the war continuing into its second month, experts suggest that more than 10 million Ukrainians have fled their homes, of which 4.3 million have left for neighbouring countries and 6.5 million have been displaced within Ukraine.
Many have come forward to support Ukraine and Ukrainians displaced from their homes. Here are some initiatives by individual sportspersons and other sport personalities in supporting those affected.
NB: Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, and we recognise the situation is fluid and changing by the day. We welcome sport for development actors supporting those affected by the war to share their efforts with sportanddev (see information at the end of the article).
Along with supporting Laureus’ new fund, set up in support of Ukraine, the former Ukraine national football team captain and manager has set up a campaign called ‘Play Your Part’. This includes a donation page and the funds raised will be equally divided among five leading organisations working in Ukraine: UNHCR, UNICEF, UN World Food Programme, Laureus Sport for Good and the Order of Malta.
Alphonso Davies, Mahmoud Dahoud, Asmir Begovic, Lucy Bronze, Ada Hegerberg and Juan Mata have called on fans to donate towards UNHCR and WFP’s donation fund towards relief efforts in Ukraine. The first three of the footballers listed all come from a refugee background.
German climber Alex Megos recently shifted his focus from training to supporting Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion. The 15 refugees that Megos and his family are supporting include his girlfriend, fellow climber Jenya Kazbekova, and her family, and other climbers from Ukraine.
Navas, the goalkeeper for Paris Saint-Germain, has purchased 30 beds to house a group of Ukrainian refugees in his mansion’s home theatre. His wife, Andrea, is helping prepare food for them and provide them with clothing, and she also urged her social media followers to help any Ukrainians impacted by the war.
Former Finland football captain Tim Sparv has been hosting a Ukrainian mother and her two children from Kyiv, in his house in Vaasa. The father of the family, like other Ukrainian men, was not allowed to leave the country.
Former Munster rugby player Shane Leahy supported the effort by setting up several warehouses in Slovakia, from where he transported vital medical supplies across the border into hospitals in Ukraine.
Leinster’s rugby player Alex Soroka, who was born in Ireland to Ukrainian parents, raised more than €47,000 for the Okhmadits Children’s Hospital in Kyiv. As part of the fundraiser, Line Up Sports came together with Esportif to donate a 2018 Grand Slam Ireland rugby jersey, which Soroka auctioned off through a draw on his Instagram page.
Johnson, who owns the American football team New York Jets, has contributed $1 million to relief efforts, splitting it between various organisations working towards the cause, with each receiving $100,000. The war hits close to home for Johnson’s wife, Suzanne, whose father came from Ukraine and mother was born to Ukrainian immigrants.
NB: We recognise the distinction between ‘sport for development’ actors, ‘sports clubs and federations’ and ‘sportspersons’ is not always clear and there are significant overlaps – we have chosen this division (even if artificial) simply to streamline the range of initiatives. We also recognise that there are many more types of actors/organisations providing support.