Frankfurt, 22 March 2022 (dpa/MIA) — Last summer Oleksandr Zinchenko was a Ukrainian hero at Euro 2020 as he inspired the team to the quarter-finals of the continental competition – but nine months later the Manchester City full back has more substantial issues in his mind than qualifying for the World Cup.
“I’m just crying,” he told the BBC shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “It’s everything in my head. Imagine the place where you was born, where you was growing up. And there is just empty ground.”
No one is thinking about football or the national team who should have been playing in Scotland on Thursday in the semi-final of their play-off path to Qatar.
Many of Zinchenko’s friends have signed up for the Ukrainian army to help defend the country.
“I’ll be honest, if not for my daughter, my family, I would be there,” he said.
Global football governing body FIFA pushed the match in Glasgow, and a potential play-off final, back to June. The World Cup begins in November and a further delay would seem difficult.
“That is so small in comparison to everything which is happening now,” the former Bundesliga player Andrej Voronin told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. “And if in the end we’re at Qatar or not is of no interest to anyone at the moment.
“Also not the team. Everyone waits and hopes that this nightmare ends.”
The Ukrainian football federation says a restoration of the domestic league and the possibility of contesting the play-offs is only an issue when there’s a ceasefire.
Zinchenko, Andriy Yarmolenko of West Ham, and others who have continued to play abroad can send a message to the world’s television cameras when on the pitch.
Roman Yaremchuk revealed the emblem of Ukraine after scoring for Benfica while Yarmolenko’s goals has unleashed waves of emotion.
“It’s so difficult for me right now in this moment thinking about football because, every day, the Russian army is killing Ukrainian people,” he said.
Defender Jarosław Rakicki meanwhile was at Russian club Zenit St Petersburg until the invasion prompted him to ask for his contract to be torn up.
Rakicki’s move from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2019 prompted anger in his homeland but he sent a signal with a social media photo of him with the Ukrainian flag and the caption “I’m Ukrainian.”
Ukraine’s record appearance Anatoliy Tymoshchuk in contrast has been banned from football in the country over his refusal to condemn the invasion or resign from his job as Zenit assistant coach.