Ukrainian football association (UAF) president Andriy Pavelko said European football was “united” after his country was added to Portugal and Spain’s bid to host the 2030 World Cup. The original proposal from Spain and Portugal was announced two years ago but has been given a political impetus by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“United as never before, the European football family, having condemned the crimes against the Ukrainian people, proved its commitment to the values that underlie our organisation,” Pavelko told reporters. “I thank you and all the friendly national associations for the help on behalf of thousands of little players – girls and boys from Mariupol, Kharkiv, Kherson, Irpin, Bucha and many other cities that were subjected to barbaric military aggression.”
Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into legislation his annexation of four Ukrainian territories – including Lugansk – as the EU agreed a new round of sanctions against Moscow in response. In recent weeks, Ukraine’s forces, bolstered by Western weapons, have wrested Russian troops out of a string of towns and villages in the east and in the south. “These children were forced to leave their homes, their clubs and football schools, fleeing from bullets and shells,” Pavelko said. “Many of them received your support and found shelter in various European countries. Now they can continue to play football in European clubs and have made new friends all over Europe. The war will end, and we will organise World Cup 2030 matches together with Spain and Portugal at the highest level.”
War-torn Ukraine applied for European Union membership just five days after Russia’s February 24 invasion and the bloc accepted the candidacy in June. “Ukraine’s participation in the bid to host the 2030 World Cup is also important for the unification and strengthening of Europe in these difficult times,” Pavelko said.
“A few months ago, Ukraine received the status of a candidate for EU membership, and in the coming years we hope to obtain full membership. The joint holding of the 2030 World Cup with Spain and Portugal will be a vivid historical event that will symbolise the unity of Europe from Lisbon to Kyiv, Donetsk, Lugansk and Sevastopol.”
The Spanish football federation (RFEF) said in a statement the idea was backed by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin. “The institutional headquarters are in Madrid, the administrative headquarters are in Lisbon. Now the Ukrainian delegation will unite with us,” RFEF president Luis Rubiales said. “In the coming months, we will come to work on practicalities.”
Portugal held the 2004 European Championship and Spain hosted the 1982 World Cup, while Ukraine was a joint host of Euro 2012 with Poland. “The example of tenacity and resilience set by the Ukrainian people is inspiring,” the Portuguese football federation (FPF) said.
The FPF added the joint bid “aims to contribute through the power of football to the recovery of a country undergoing reconstruction”. It added the terms of Ukraine’s role in the bid “will be discussed and defined in due course”.
It follows the announcement last month from an Egyptian official that Egypt, Greece and Saudi Arabia are in talks to jointly host the 2030 World Cup. In August, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Paraguay launched their bid to host the event – which is the centenary of the first World Cup, held in Uruguay – with the hope of bringing the global showpiece back to its first home.
The 2026 edition has already been awarded to three countries – Canada, Mexico and the United States. More than half of the 21 World Cups already staged have been in Europe but later this year Qatar will host the finals, the first time it has been played in the Middle East.
Portuguese Football Federation president Fernando Soares Gomes da Silva (left), Spanish Football Federation chief Luis Rubiales (centre) Ukraine Football Federation president Andriy Pavelko pose during a press conference announcing Spain, Portugal and Ukraine’s bid for the 2030 World Cup at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon. (AFP)