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Ukraine’s players drag the war right into the EC

Ukraine will play their first match at Euro 2024 on Monday when they face Romania.

While the European Championship in football has really kicked off, and the continent’s football fans find it difficult to think about anything else, one of the teams lives an existence characterized by ambivalence.

With the war in their homeland, the Ukrainian players use part of the speaking time to focus on the fact that the upcoming games on the football pitch must be seen in a larger perspective.

– We all understand that in Ukraine football does not come first right now, said the Ukrainian coach Serhiy Rebrov at a press conference ahead of the team’s test match against Poland before the final round.

– With the situation in our home country, our players do not need extra motivation. We get motivated to play every day when we see the news.

The team’s captain Andrij Jamolenko also used the press conference to focus on the war.

– The whole world’s attention is focused on this tournament. And for us it is an opportunity to remind the world that in our country children, women and soldiers are killed every day, he says.

In a video published by the Ukrainian Football Association, the Ukrainian national team profiles talk about their hometowns, which over the past ten years have been characterized by war and destruction as a consequence of Russia’s invasion.

Andriy Lunin and Mykhailo Mudryk, from Krasnohrad in the Kharkiv region.

Oleksandr Zinchenko from Radomysjl in the Zhytomyr region.

Mykola Shaparenko from the village of Velyka Novosilka.

In the video, the players do not talk about how they expect to line up for Monday’s game against Romania, but rather about how their hometowns have been attacked by the Russians, followed by footage as evidence.

The video, which can be seen further down, must be seen as part of a media strategy and as an attempt to use the football finals as a platform to shed light on the ongoing challenges in the war-torn country.

But how much should we put in it? DR’s reporter in Kyiv Brita Kvist Hansen sees no reason to doubt the content.

– I have no reason to believe that the images do not match each player’s hometown. It is very effective, very serious, that the players that people may know internationally as stars in Arsenal, Chelsea or Real Madrid are also personally affected by the war, says Brita Kvist Hansen.

– But if, for example, you only saw the pictures from Kyiv and thought that the entire capital is a ruin, then of course it is wrong.

A huge platform

Ukraine is in a pool with Romania, Slovakia and Belgium. A pool with a clear favorite in the latter and in addition relatively even.

The Ukrainians can therefore allow themselves to dream of further advancement, and that would mean a lot to the people for several reasons.

– Those I have spoken to say that it will be a great moral support for them to do well, says Brita Kvist Hansen.

– It is a dark time, and the word ‘victory’ cannot be uttered here without immediately thinking ‘victory in the war against Russia’.

– And the further they go in the tournament, the stronger the story of invincible Ukraine stands. They will probably also have many fans in the audience who are not Ukrainians, she says.

It is not only through official channels of the football association that the Ukrainians send out messages to the world, urging people to turn their eyes to the events in Ukraine.

Attitudes about the war are also expressed on personal profiles on social media.

In particular, captain Andrij Jamolenko is active on his profile.

– Why do you just sit and say nothing? I know many of you. I know you think your president is wrong, that what is going on is not right. You have influence. I’m begging you, he says, among other things, in a video on Instagram, referring to the Russian national team players.

Brita Kvist Hansen believes that announcements such as the above help to emphasize the sincerity of the national team’s messages.

– A very simple video where he speaks directly into the camera and begins by saying that he is speaking this message in Russian so that it reaches those it is addressed to.

– I think that is quite strong. Because it seems very convincing and sincere. Maybe even more than with background music and violent images.

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