Global conversation: Andriy Shevchenko on the invasion of Russia and how the war affects sport
Russia’s assault on Ukraine is fast approaching the six-month mark.
While the invasion affected many aspects of life in Europe – including the cost of living and rising energy prices – it also influenced the world of sport.
Sports governing bodies generally avoid politics, however, the ongoing war has ended the sport’s neutrality.
Many international teams and bodies, including the International Olympic Committee, UEFA and FIFA, expressed their solidarity with Ukraine and imposed numerous restrictions on Russian and Belarusian competitors.
Ukrainian-born and former professional footballer, Andre Shevchenkowas most recently the head coach of Italian heavyweight Genoa CFC
As AC Milan’s top striker, he scored a total of 175 goals and became the third Ukrainian to win the coveted Ballon D’Or in 2004.
The father of four is no stranger to politics. In 2012, he announced that he was running in the Ukrainian federal elections, but his party did not win any seats in parliament.
Today, the 45-year-old lends his celebrity status to promote fundraising initiatives for the war-torn country.
Representing his people’s struggle to resist Russia’s invasion, he spoke to Euronews international correspondent Anelise Borges.
You come from a world of success and victories, you shook up the world of football. And today you are here to talk about a country facing destruction and displacement. Did you ever think you would be in this position and it would happen to your country?
Andriy Shevchenko: Yes, it’s hard to believe. It’s true that it all started in 2014, first with the annexation [of Crimea] and, the Donetsk war, it was the first part of the conflict.
I still remember, like two weeks before, I was talking to my family a lot, I was talking to my sister, to my mother, we were thinking, talking about what we were going to do.
But I couldn’t believe it, and my family was saying no, it’s impossible, we don’t believe it could happen. We saw the US embassy, Italy, all the European embassies started moving away from Kyiv, Ukraine, that’s when we really started to worry.
When the war broke out on the morning of the 24th, I received a phone call from my mother. And immediately when I saw my mom calling me, I realized something really bad had happened.
I answered the phone and heard my mother’s voice, she was crying and saying the war had started. It was… The hardest time of my life.
Since then, everything has changed for us.
It’s hard to believe, for me sport has never really been attached to politics or war, it has always been far from conflict.
Because sport has a different message for people, it brings people together, it unites people… and there is no aggression, fair play is very important.
The sports world was also affected by this war. It was quite extraordinary to see how he reacted. We have seen Russian teams and athletes banned from competitions – or allowed to play under strict rules of neutrality. Many analysts say Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced the sports world to choose sides, to become more political. Do you agree with that? And do you think that’s important right now?
Andriy Shevchenko: Sure. As I said, sport has such a strong message, especially for young people, the young generation, and also for the world, we stand together against aggression.
FIFA and UEFA have been very firm in their decision to ban all Russian teams from many competitions, and Russian clubs from all competitions since the start of the war, that was a clear message and I absolutely agree with that.
Many have criticized Russian athletes for not coming forward and speaking out against the war. What do you think ? Do you think there should be more Russian athletes today campaigning against this invasion?
I don’t judge people. We are all very different. But I think if you’re a strong person, if you want to live your life and be fair to yourself, you have to speak up.
We must all stand together and speak loud and always together against this aggression.
We have seen an extraordinary response to the millions of people who have been displaced, many of whom have had to leave Ukraine. In Europe, there was an extraordinary willingness to help these people, to welcome them, which was quite different from the reaction of people coming from other crises like Syria or other parts of the Middle East. Did you feel this? Did you notice that?
To be honest with you, I think it’s only when a situation affects you personally that you start to feel a lot about it. We need to be more concerned about this conflict, this situation.
The world must react immediately. You know, for me, I can see the future, we have to stand together and react immediately to this aggression and aggression in the world.
Do you have a message for the Ukrainian people, some of whom are athletes like you and have given up everything, abandoned their old lives and are now fighting with weapons against Russia? And to the peoples of the world who know you very well for your victories, for your fine career, for the importance of not forgetting Ukraine, of not looking away from this conflict.
My message to the world is that it has been over six months since the war started and of course the awareness of the war is like waves – it comes and goes.
But my message is that the war is here, and this situation is very critical. Every day people lose their hopes, lose their homes and their lives.
They need a lot of help. Don’t be indifferent. I know many of you have already helped a lot. And I want to thank everyone for that.
But I also know that Ukraine needs more help. And please don’t be indifferent. For my people, we have always been together. I’m going to Ukraine soon, and my message has always been “Sláva Ukrayíni! “.