2019 Super Eagles invitee, Stephen, Essien and the Nigerian stars affected by Putin-led Russian invasion of Ukraine

As the situation degenerates into war in the troubled Eastern European nation, Soccernet.ng looks at the six footballers of Nigerian descent on the payroll of Ukrainian clubs 

There is no return to football anytime soon for Nigerian forward Michael Stephen after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a military invasion of Ukraine on Thursday.

Stephen, 22, only joined Ukrainian Premier League side Inhulets Petrove last year from Wikki Tourists and has already notched two goals in 15 league appearances for the Serhiy Lavrynenko-led team.

But the former Rivers United attacker has not kicked a ball since featuring for 78 minutes in his side’s 2-1 home win over Desna on December 10.

The Ukrainian top-flight has been on hold since then, following increasing aggression from Russia.

Stephen is not the only Nigerian footballer in Ukraine, with five others scattered around the country.

2019 Super Eagles invitee Viv Efosa Solomon-Otabor is teammates with teenage midfielder Michael Obamina at Premier League side Rukh Vynnyky.

26-year-old Solomon-Otabor only moved to Vynnyky in late January on a free transfer from Scottish side St. Johnstone, and he would already be questioning that decision.

The former Wigan Athletic winger was on the bench when the Super Eagles held Brazil to a 1-1 friendly draw in Singapore in 2019. 

The Druha Liga, the second tier of football in the country, is home to John Chukwufumnanya, who features for Real Pharm, Bright Essien, who wears the colours of Peremoga, and Trostianets’ Henry Paago.

No single Druha Liga match has been played since November.

And the country’s worst nightmare became a reality after Putin responded to a call for Moscow’s assistance from Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden has already denounced Russia’s attack, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged Putin to “stop troops from attacking Ukraine”.

Still, football will be the last thing on the minds of Ukrainians in the coming weeks as the crisis predictably escalates.

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