Soccer

'We are really desperate': Brazilian soccer players trapped in Ukraine appeal for help

Brazilian soccer players at Ukraine's two biggest clubs issued an appeal to the Brazilian government on Thursday, saying they are trapped by the Russian military attack on Ukraine.

Group of players from teams Shakhtar Donetsk, Dynamo Kyiv post video from hotel

A group of players from Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv posted a video together with their families from a hotel where they called for support from the Brazilian authorities on Thursday. (@Maycon/Instagram)

Brazilian soccer players at Ukraine's two biggest clubs issued an appeal to the Brazilian government on Thursday, saying they are trapped by the Russian military attack on Ukraine.

A group of players from Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv posted a video together with their families from a hotel where they called for support from the Brazilian authorities, joined by Uruguayan player Carlos de Pena of Dynamo. They said the borders were closed and fuel supplies had run out.

"We are really desperate. We are going through chaos," Shakhtar defender Marlon Santos wrote on Instagram. "We have the support from our club. But the desperation is agonizing. We wait for the support from our country. We speak in the name of all the Brazilians in Ukraine."

Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain striker Neymar reposted the video on his Instagram account, and added he is praying for his countrymen in Ukraine. Top Brazilian clubs have also posted the video and pressured authorities to take action.

Similar messages were posted by Brazilian players living elsewhere in Ukraine, including by forward Marlyson and two teammates from Metalist 1925 in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, near the Russian border, and three players from Zorya Luhansk, a club based in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia.

Brazil's foreign minister Carlos Franca said during a live TV broadcast that any Brazilians based in Ukraine "will only be removed from that region once we have the security conditions to do so."

He added that the government's intention is to transport Brazilians to neighbouring countries by land if possible.

"We are not ruling out any possibility [to evacuate Brazilians]," said Franca, sitting next to Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, who met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week. Bolsonaro, a hardcore soccer fan, said in the same broadcast he wants peace in the region, but did not criticize Putin for the invasion.

"Have a little patience," Franca added. "What matters now it to have patience and caution."

The Ukrainian league was suspended indefinitely Thursday after martial law was declared in Ukraine.

Common destination for Brazilian players

Ukrainian clubs have long recruited Brazilian players to boost their performance on the field and to make a profit in the transfer market.

Up-and-coming Brazilian players often see the Ukrainian league as a shop window to show off their skills to clubs in Europe's biggest leagues, especially if they play for Champions League regulars Shakhtar and Dynamo.

Shakhtar lists 11 Brazilian players in its first-team squad and another, Junior Moraes, who is a naturalized Ukrainian citizen.

Shakhtar and Zorya were both founded in cities in eastern Ukraine but haven't been able to play there since Russia-backed separatists took over their home cities in 2014.

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