Ball in play: how to unite Polish and Ukrainian football

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Ball in play: how to unite Polish and Ukrainian football

The football championship of Ukraine is under a threat: due to the war, we do not have the opportunity to hold matches where they were planned. Therefore, we are looking for other options, in particular, outside Ukraine, in particular, in Poland. On the one hand, this is a very unusual experience, on the other hand, it opens up new opportunities for cooperation.

As you know, the 2021/22 football season in Ukraine was ended early due to the Russian invasion. And now the leadership of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, as well as football associations, are thinking about how to continue the competition so that, on the one hand, the players do not lose their shape and motivation, and on the other hand, they do not put their lives at risk.

The question remains open – where to play? Ukrainian cities, where matches were planned, were either destroyed or occupied. For example, Chernihiv is definitely out of the question: the local stadium ‘Desna’ was shelled for several days in a row in March, and almost nothing remained of it. Destroyed grandstands, heavily damaged football field, administrative buildings. There is no longer any question of repairing ‘Desna’: most likely, it will be demolished to build a new arena.

Therefore, we carry on playing. But where? Personally, I am very impressed by the idea of deeper integration of Ukrainian-Polish football. In 2012 we jointly held Euro-2012, and the European football giants noted the high level of organisation, spectacle and creativity of the competition. Recently, the national team of Ukraine played two matches within the League of Nations – against Armenia and Ireland in Lodz, Poland. It should be noted that the Polish spectators, no less than the Ukrainian ones, sincerely worried about the result of the game and cheered for the Ukrainian national team. Poland, without exaggeration, has become native to Ukrainians, and this has also affected football.

Therefore, now is definitely the right moment to implement one of my ideas, which I expressed a few years ago – the unification of the Ukrainian and Polish football championships. At the time, this idea seemed crazy to many, and I heard a lot of criticism against me. But now, when I voiced it again, supporters, including among the Polish sport’s elite, have increased significantly.

So, the idea is to organise something like Extraleague or Premier Extraleague, where ten Ukrainian and ten Polish teams will play. At the same time, in the first league, one zone will be purely Ukrainian, and the second zone will be purely Polish. There is a purely economic benefit here. Poland receives EUR 52 million for the pool of telecasts. And if we add the Ukrainian league here? This would significantly increase the capitalisation of our championships due to the interest of advertisers. In addition, it will give an impetus to the development of sports schools and the training of young football players. And the better prepared our footballers will be, the greater will be the interest in them from the leading clubs.

I am convinced that Ukraine and Poland can repeat, and maybe surpass, the success of ‘BeNeLiga’. Yes, the war made dramatic adjustments to the holding of the football championship in Ukraine. However, at the same time, it opened a wide window of opportunities for interaction with Poland, which, I am convinced, will bring mutual benefit to both countries and our sport. So why not take a chance?