Euro 2024 | Romania – Ukraine | Andriy Shevchenko: “Remind the world what we are going through”

Euro 2024 | Romania – Ukraine | Andriy Shevchenko: “Remind the world what we are going through”
Euro 2024 | Romania – Ukraine | Andriy Shevchenko: “Remind the world what we are going through”

Ukraine, or rather the Zbirna (“the selection”), begins its European tournament against Romania on Monday in Munich. Placed in Group E with Slovakia and Belgium, the Ukrainians hope to exit the group stage. Three years ago, during the previous Euro, the team of which Shevchenko was then coach went all the way to the quarter-finals, knocked out by England with a scathing 4-0.

This time, Shevchenko, 47, is no longer a coach but president of the Ukrainian Football Federation, and it was his former attacking partner at Dynamo kyiv, Serhiy Rebrov, who had to work to bring the team to Germany despite the immense dismay and acute anxiety of the players, marked by the conflict triggered in February 2022 by the Russian invasion of their country.

There are two elements at play“, observes Shevchenko in an interview with AFP by email. “Firstlyhe said, we have shown that we are still competitive and that we continue to excel in football, even during the war. On the other hand, and most importantly, we proudly represent Ukraine and remind the world what we are going through“For this son of a soldier, the resistance and spirit that the Ukrainian players showed to reach the final phase of Euro-2024 via the play-offs is a reason for pride.

“Every victory is crucial”

Every victory of our country, on and off the field, is crucial for all Ukrainians and especially for those who are defending it at this time“, he underlines. Like the victory of Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk against Tyson Fury for the title of unified world heavyweight champion on May 19, each victory of Zbirna could boost the morale of the troops on the front, he hopes.

Preparing for the continental competition that Germany is hosting until July 14 was complicated for the Ukrainian selection, which had to play outside its borders. When football players talk about pressure, they usually talk about looking good in front of their fans or living up to the sporting challenges. But for some Ukrainian players, it is a much more serious matter: they must train under the daily threat of air raids.

The most difficult part of our situation is adapting to the rapidly changing environment affected by war“, explains Shevchenko. “We face many restrictions, particularly in terms of security, with air raids, missile attacks from Russia, curfews and power cuts“.”These problems“, he continues, “make everything more difficult to operate, but we’re doing well“.

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