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Brazilian Footballer Drafted Into Ukrainian Army After Swapping Citizenship

Brazilian Footballer Drafted Into Ukrainian Army After Swapping Citizenship

A Brazilian footballer who changed his citizenship to Ukrainian so he could play for the country's national football team is now regretting it – after he was called up to fight in the army.

Edmar Halowski de Lacerda, 34, had swapped his Brazilian passport for a Ukrainian one so that he could play football for the country admitted he had never considered the possibility that it would end up dragging him into a war.

Ukraine had compulsory military service for school-leavers but Edmar was too old when he got his citizenship to have to worry about performing it, and in any case the country announced in 2012 that it was scrapping compulsory military service in 2013. But that changed when the country disintegrated and Ukraine's new leadership announced they were reinstating the military draft to address the "deteriorating security situation and threats from Russia along the country's border".

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov issued the decree saying Ukraine will conduct a draft for active military service in the Ukrainian Armed Forces in order to "to increase the state defence potential".

The decree says: "Ukrainian male citizens who are physically qualified for military service, over 18-years-old and older and who have no right for exemption from military service will be conscripted."

It added that the measures were to address the "deteriorating situation in the east and south of Ukraine, activities of illegally formed armed pro-Russian groups, the seizure and blockade of the state administration buildings, military administration facilities, military bases and so on which pose a threat to Ukraine's territorial integrity".

But that has left the footballer, who married Ukrainian Tatyana in 2008, with orders to report for duty and he admits: "I hadn't reckoned on this and although I'm a bit nervous that it might not get sorted out, I have to say that my wife is terrified. I have told her not to worry though and everything will be fine.

"To be honest, I don‘t know what I would do if I actually went into the army. Playing football is the only thing I can do. I haven‘t heard that any of my team mates have been called up, but maybe nobody says it out loud."

For the last three years the midfielder he has played for Ukrainian side Metalist Kharkiv and he said the order to turn up for duty had been a complete surprise. He added: "I would certainly not anticipated that when I got a Ukrainian passport, the club told me they will try to resolve the issue for me."

The Brazilian came to the Ukraine in 2000 when he signed a contract with Tavriya Simferopol. He played at the club for five years before moving to Metalist Kharkiv, where he remains today, and after getting a Ukrainian passport he also played for the national side where he was capped 11 times, scoring a single goal. The games he played in included one against Poland in Kiev in 2013 in which the Ukrainians won 1:0.

Edmar, unlike many fellow South Americans, remained in the Ukraine despite the political crisis. Those that left include six players from FC Shaktar Donetsk, and Edmar's team mate at Metalist, the Argentinian player Sebastian Blanco.

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