Part of the job of being a governing body for international competition is dealing with the occasional geopolitical nightmare, and deciding how to keep teams from two countries essentially at war from turning a game into a battle. UEFA is nipping that shit in the bud right now, before tomorrow's Champions League draw that could have pitted a Russian and a Ukrainian club against each other.
UEFA's decision was made yesterday, before Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was reportedly shot down in Eastern Ukraine. It came in response to ongoing concerns from both Russia's and Ukraine's soccer federations over the possibility of Zenit Saint Petersburg and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk being paired off in the next round of Champions League qualifying.
In light of the current political situation, the Russian Football Union (RFS) and the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) have expressed concerns about safety and security in the case of Russian and Ukrainian teams being drawn against each other in UEFA competition. After evaluating the request and taking into account the safety and security situation in the region, the UEFA Emergency Panel has decided that Ukrainian and Russian teams cannot be drawn against each other until further notice. Consequently, FC Zenit and Dnipro will be prevented from being pitted together when the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round draw is made on 18 July.
The UEFA panel also declared that Champions League and Europa League matches will be allowed to take place in Dnipropetrovsk and Odessa. There had been some safety concerns, but following security assessments, UEFA now says play on.
The same can't be said for Israel. In light of the fighting in and around Gaza, no UEFA-sanctioned matches will be allowed to take place in Israel, and it is on Israeli clubs to propose alternate venues to host those matches.
[Photo: Dynamo Kiev fans create Ukraine's Navy flag during a soccer match against Crimean Tavria at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine. AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky.]