Scottish Football Association chief executive Ian Maxwell is encouraged by the response to Scotland’s fundraising friendly after feeling like a “fraud” talking about fixtures with his Ukrainian counterpart.
Scotland’s World Cup semi-final play-off against Ukraine has been replaced by a Hampden friendly against Poland on Thursday and Maxwell hopes both sets of fans continue to rally their support for the war-torn nation.
A £10 donation from each ticket will go to UNICEF’s humanitarian response, which will help provide clean water, food and health supplies plus ensure child protection services continue, both within Ukraine and for those who have fled to neighbouring countries.
Maxwell said: “We have sold about 33,000 tickets which includes more than 4500 Polish fans who bought tickets in 24 hours over the weekend.
“Unusually, because of the short amount of time before the match, we are selling tickets directly to Polish fans. That would normally go through their association but we are dealing with that and they have flown out the door.
“It’s a good number and we would like to get into the 40s and obviously the more spectators that turn up, the more money we can raise for UNICEF and for everybody in Ukraine, so it’s important we try and do that. We are delighted with the figures so far.
“Thursday night games are generally difficult, it’s a school night and we have a lot of supporters who come from all over the country and Thursday night makes that more of a challenge.
“We were aware when we announced it that we might actually attract spectators that maybe wouldn’t necessarily come to a national team match but because of the fundraising element they would want to show their support. We just want to get as many in the stadium as we can.”
Maxwell has not held direct talks with his counterpart at the Ukrainian Association of Football over the fate of their play-off.
“We have channelled that all through UEFA,” he said. “The last things the Ukrainians need is more complications in terms of communication.
“I was on one call he has been on, but it has been done through UEFA. It is actually really uncomfortable being on a call and talking about football given what is going on over there.
“You feel like a bit of a fraud and it doesn’t feel right to be concentrating too much on the games because first and foremost you want the conflict to stop and you want everything that’s happening over there to stop and things to return to some sort of normality, whatever that looks like over there.”
Scotland head coach Steve Clarke last week stated he was keen to avoid potentially playing two play-offs on top of four UEFA Nations League fixtures – one of which is also scheduled to be against Ukraine – in June.
Maxwell said: “It’s a really delicate one. We want to play Ukraine, we want to play the winner of the Wales-Austria one in the final, and we want to qualify for Qatar. That’s the route that was laid out, that’s what we want to achieve, and we will do everything we can to make sure that’s a possibility.
“It’s all hypothetical at the moment and it’s probably inappropriate to go into too much detail because we just don’t know. It’s very much a case of seeing what happens with the conflict over the coming weeks and take things from there.
Six Ukraine players from Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk set up a fund at the weekend to aid the army and civilians by buying items such as ammunition and medicine.
“That just highlights that the Ukrainians have got so much more to be thinking about right now and we just need to support them as much as we can and we will see what happens in terms of the game,” Maxwell said.
The former St Mirren and Partick Thistle player was speaking after helping young footballers from autism charity Team United select a shortlist of players for a World Cup trading cards project on a visit to Hampden.
“Football can be such a source for good and it is really heartening to see it help children and young adults living with autism on the field as well as off it,” he said.