Scotland manager Steve Clarke has found himself in such an invidious position. He is preparing his team for a friendly against Poland on Thursday because an illegal war is being brutally waged on Ukraine by Russia. A sum of £10 from every ticket sold for the fixture will go towards the aid effort in that country when, just two months ago, it was expected its national football team would be at Hampden this week for a World Cup semi-final play-off. Instead, the Ukrainian people are facing a humanitarian disaster. Already five million of them have been forced to seek refugee status as their cities are reduced to rubble by a barbaric bombing campaign.
“It’s horrible,” said Clarke. “Even sitting here today talking about football, it’s in the back of my mind that we are in this situation of talking about friendly games. We are going to try and raise a s much money as we can for UNICEF to distribute and help the people of Ukraine, but it’s just horrendous. I’ve got to be honest… most of the time I’ve got to get up and get out the room or turn the television off. Because to see somebody lying dead in the street, to see kids crying on the trains as they are pulling out of the station, is just heartbreaking.”
The intention – looking more forlorn by the day – is that Ukraine will contest the play-off at Hampden in the June window set aside for a Nations League campaign in which they were also scheduled to meet Scotland. Clarke can do more than pray that is possible with the World Cup finals scheduled for late November. “There must come a point where a decision has to be made on it,” he said. “Hopefully the powers that be will make that decision at the right time in consultation with the Ukrainian FA. That has to be the first port of call. My hope as we sit here now in the middle of March is that we can play Ukraine in June. That would be everything. It would mean we are in a much better place.”