Two Ukrainian footballers have been killed while fighting against Russian invaders, global footballers’ union FIFPRO has confirmed.
Vitalii Sapylo (21) and Dmytro Martynenko (25) lost their lives in combat and are believed to be the first football casualties of the eight-day war.
Sapylo was a goalkeeper with third-division side Karpaty Lviv’s youth team, while Martynenko last played for second-division side FC Hostomel. A statement from FIFPRO on Twitter read:
Our thoughts are with the families, friends, and teammates of young Ukrainian footballers Vitalii Sapylo (21) and Dmytro Martynenko (25), football’s first reported losses in this war.
May they both rest in peace.
FIFPRO general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffman told BBC Radio 5Live that they do not information about the exact number of footballers who are actively involved in the fighting. Baer-Hoffman said:
We’ve had confirmation from the ground, which is of course incredibly sad.
We don’t have clear information on how many of our members are really currently involved directly in the conflict, and of course, there are still hundreds of Ukrainian players, male and female, in the country.
Our union on the ground is effectively working out of bunkers and cellars where they are hiding from the attacks, so it’s a very difficult situation to analyse.
These two players have apparently passed away, as part of this military invasion.
They’re showing how football and sports, in general, is an afterthought because they’re just individuals who unfortunately got caught up in this terrible war.
Sapilo’s father Roman confirmed the death of his son at the frontline to BILD, a German publication. He said:
He was such a happy, fun-loving boy. It was an airstrike by that damn Putin. He took my child from me.
He really wanted to fight. The first tank broke down, then the second, but under no circumstances did he want to leave the front.
He asked for a third party. This armour has brought him eternal sleep.