Ongoing riots in Kiev, Ukraine have forced the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) to move a Thursday Europa League match between Dynamo Kiev and Valencia of Spain to Cyprus.
The neutral site in the capital city of Nicosia, GSP Stadium, is over one thousand miles south of the rapidly escalating violence in Ukraine. 25 deaths have been reported in Ukraine‘s capital since Tuesday. The anti-government protests began in late 2013 after President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a landmark association and trade deal with the European Union that made the countries’ relations with Russia stronger.
VISUAL CONTEXT: PREDOMINANT LANGUAGES AND PROTEST STATUS IN UKRAINE
Despite Dynamo Kiev president Igor Surkis urging the Spanish side, and those traveling from Spain to Kiev, that it was safe and the hosts would be able to steer clear of any trouble that has overwhelmed the country over the past three months, UEFA deemed the stadium unfit to host. “They guaranteed our security but the situation is very unpredictable and cannot be controlled and the best thing is to play at a neutral venue. We are satisfied. Common sense and the cordial relations between all involved have prevailed,” said Valencia president Amadeo Salvo after UEFA handed down their final decision.
The question is how widespread the protests might become. In Dnipropetrovsk, which is 280 miles southeast of Kiev, English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur and Ukrainian club Dnipro will go ahead as planned with their Thursday tie.
UEFA has done the right thing here by moving the games out of Kiev — sport events are an easy target for protests and anti-government rioting. Whether or not this is the only match forced out of Ukraine as a result of the current affairs remains to be seen. The riots have not only taken the lives of 25 people, but left another estimated 240 injured.
Europa League action takes a backseat here — a very telling sign of how bad things have become in Ukraine.