WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Robert Lewandowski stepped up his support for Ukraine on Tuesday when Poland’s captain pledged to wear an armband in the blue and yellow colors of the country’s flag to the World Cup in November.
Lewandowski first showed his opposition to the Russian military invasion of Ukraine within days of starting in February. He called for Poland to boycott playing Russia in a World Cup qualifying match.
The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year received his gift from Ukrainian great Andriy Shevchenko at Poland’s national stadium in Warsaw.
“Thank you Andriy. It was a pleasure to meet you!” Lewandowski wrote on his Instagram account. “It will be an honor for me to wear this captain’s armband in the colors of Ukraine to the World Cup”.
The star striker’s public stance helped ensure that Poland did not play Russia in a scheduled World Cup qualifying playoff semi-final in Warsaw on March 24.
“We can’t pretend that nothing is happening,” Lewandowski said then, two days before FIFA and UEFA banned Russian teams from international competition, effectively eliminating Russia from the World Cup.
After Poland advanced to the playoffs at the World Cup in Qatar, Ukraine lost to Wales in a playoff final postponed until June to help the team prepare amid the war that has wiped out domestic football.
Poland will play in Group C with Argentina, Mexico and Saudi Arabia from November 20 to December 1. 18 tournament
Football ties between Poland and Ukraine, which co-hosted Euro 2012, have seen Ukrainian national and club teams play “home” matches in international competitions in Polish stadiums this season.
Ukraine will complete their UEFA Nations League program in Poland next week, hosting Scotland in Krakow.
Shevchenko, a 2004 Ballon d’Or winner when he was a standout striker for AC Milan, coached the Ukraine team when they reached the Euro 2020 quarter-finals last year.
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