Crimean clubs to complete Ukrainian season but start talks on Russian switch

Football Federation of Crimea HQBy Richard van Poortvliet
March 20 - Legally or illegally, the biggest country in the world has just got a little bigger, with Crimea set to become part of the Russian Federation. While a lot has been made of the political ramifications, spare a thought for two football clubs from the peninsula, who ply their trade in the Ukrainian Premier League.

The creation of a CIS league had been a hot topic of discussion six months ago, though with nothing coming to fruition. However, inadvertently, it seems that two clubs from Ukraine's top flight, could be moving to play in Russia, sooner rather than later.

Tavriya Simferopol and FC Sevastopol, which although located on the Crimean peninsula, is not actually part of Crimea, though has been absorbed by Russia, are the two clubs in question. While FC Sevastopol are currently in mid table, Tavriya are having a difficult time of things this season, despite their illustrious past, and are currently second from bottom. Their last match should have been against Dynamo Kiev at home in Simferopol. However, given the tense political situation, the game was moved to Kiev and was actually played in Dynamo's own stadium. The side from the Ukrainian capital won 2-1.

It seems that neither club will face any immediate upheaval with the president of the Crimean Football Federation, Nikolay Gostev, saying, "Tarviya will definitely finish the season in the Ukrainian Premier League". While all this seems logical, given there are around two and a half months of the season, which need to be completed, a longer term solution does need to be found.

"We would love to be a part of the Russian Football Union, but not everything is that simple", Gostev added. "For this to happen, we need the blessing of the Ukrainian Football Federation to leave and also the blessing of the Russian Football Union to accept us. I have spoken to the head of the Russian Football Union, Nikolay Tolstykh and hopefully this question will be resolved after the 27th March, when UEFA will be holding a meeting in Astana. "

Meanwhile, the acting director of the Russian Football Premier League, Sergey Cheban is delighted with Crimea becoming part of Russia, but will not rush to make any decisions concerning the two clubs, until a later date.

"When the dust has settled then we can start talking about the future of the clubs from the Crimean peninsula", Cheban commented. "We at the Russian Premier League and the Russian Football Union are studying various documents, while we are also in contact with UEFA. It is really difficult to put a time frame on things."

While all parties understand that a lot of paperwork will have to be undertaken for both FC Sevastopol and Tavriya Simferopol to the Russian Football Union, there seems to be a genuine will amongst the football supporters in Crimea, to join their neighbour to the East.

The President of FC Sevastopol, Aleksandr Krasilnikov understands his club will have to overcome a lot of obstacles, but he is confident of finding a solution. "Of course we would like our fate to be decided by the start of next season, but that will be decided by UEFA and FIFA".

While the 53 year old is keen to see his club continue their future in Russia, he is also wary that the sacrifice may be too great. "The club wants to play at the level we are used to and not drop down any divisions. To keep one's place in he top division is normal. Will the Russian Premier League expand in size to accommodate us? We will be writing to the Russian Football Union to discuss these things".

Despite their current struggles, Tavriya are the most popular football club on the Crimean peninsula and are the only club to have broken the Dynamo Kiev – Shakhtar Donetsk monopoly on the Ukrainian League title. The team from Simferopol became the first ever club to win the championship in 1992, following the break-up of the Soviet Union and the first Ukrainian side ever to qualify for the Championships League. Their current squad includes players from as far afield as Argentina and Tunisia, while their last major triumph was winning the Ukrainian Cup in 2010, beating Metallurg Donetsk.

There are many questions that Tavriya and FC Sevastopol will face about joining the elite of Russian football. There will be massive political will amongst the Russian and Crimean state to accommodate these two clubs into the Russian Premier League, while trips to the warmth of Crimea to play football in November and December would certainly be greeted with plenty of positives by players and fans alike when Russia is falling under a blanket of snow.

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