WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Robert Lewandowski stepped up his support for Ukraine on Tuesday when the Polish captain pledged to bring an armband in the colors of the country’s blue-yellow flag to the World Cup in November.
Lewandowski first showed his opposition to the Russian military invasion of Ukraine days into February. He called on Poland to boycott Russia in a World Cup qualifier.
The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year received his gift from Ukrainian great Andriy Shevchenko at the Polish 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 at the World Cup.”
The star striker’s public stance meant Poland did not face Russia in a World Cup qualifying semi-final scheduled in Warsaw on March 24.
“We can’t pretend nothing is happening,” Lewandowski said then, two days before FIFA and UEFA banned Russian teams from international competitions, effectively withdrawing Russia from the World Cup.
After Poland made it through the World Cup qualifiers in Qatar, Ukraine lost to Wales in a playoff final postponed until June to help the team prepare amid the war that ended domestic football.
Poland will play in Group C with Argentina, Mexico and Saudi Arabia from November 20 to December 20. 18 tournament
Football ties between Poland and Ukraine, which co-hosted the 2012 European Championship, have seen Ukrainian national and club teams play ‘home’ matches in international competitions at Polish stadiums this season .
Ukraine will complete their UEFA Nations League program in Poland next week, hosting Scotland in Krakow.
Shevchenko, winner of the 2004 Ballon d’Or when he was a star striker with AC Milan, coached the Ukrainian side when they reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 last year.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
JOIN THE CONVERSATION