Sports sometimes need to take a back seat to events happening around the world. On Monday, due to Ukraine's ongoing political instability, the country's football team reportedly canceled its friendly with the United States that was scheduled for Wednesday in Cyprus.
Update at 10:17 p.m. ET
Well, that didn't take long. The United States Soccer Federation tweeted out that it's been assured by Ukrainian officials that their national team will make the trip to Cyprus, and the friendly will go on as scheduled:
On #USAvUKR: "The Football Federation of Ukraine confirmed that their team will travel to Cyprus and the match will proceed as scheduled."— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) March 4, 2014
Anatoliy Konkov, president of the Ukrainian Football Federation, announced the decision to the ICTV channel, per Reuters:
We cannot hold the national championship so what kind of football can we talk of at all? If we do not have an opportunity to play on home soil, why shall we go to Cyprus in those troubled times for your country? We play for our people and country. Our team do not fly to Cyprus and stay at home.
Yet when asked about the status of the match, U.S. Soccer Federation spokesman Neil Buethe told Reuters the following: "We have been in contact with the Football Federation of Ukraine and are awaiting final confirmation that the team is still planning to travel to Cyprus for the match."
Doubts over whether the friendly could take place were raised following the Russian and Ukrainian standoff in Crimea. The specter of war looms, as the world's attention has been drawn to the ongoing violence in the region.
As one might surmise, these are no conditions in which to play a football match.
A little less than a week ago, the USFF announced plans to move the friendly to Cyprus.
With the violence continuing, however, Konkov has decided that the circumstances in his country are too dire to overlook. And it's hard to find fault with the decision. The Ukrainian players' thoughts and emotions would undoubtedly be elsewhere during the friendly, and one exhibition match doesn't outweigh the plight of an entire country.
Of course, this does throw a monkey wrench into U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann's plans. These friendlies are all that's left between now and the 2014 World Cup, which means this is one of the few times that Klinsmann can work and experiment with his squad.
Goal.com's Jon Arnold also pointed out that the fact so many other countries are also playing on Wednesday means the United States is scrambling to find a potential Plan B:
“Backup plan” on #USMNT friendly v. Ukraine easier said than done with most teams already playing friendlies that day.— Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) March 3, 2014
The U.S. will have to move fast in order to avoid settling for an intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday. Even if the team does find an opponent, it could be such a lesser country that the Americans will easily coast through. A win in such a scenario doesn't prove anything.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian federation will certainly have much more on its mind.