The reintroduction of competitive football to war-torn countries like Ukraine is critical in showing the rest of the world that people have not given up and are trying to live their lives, according to Arsenal defender Oleksandr Zinchenko, who said this on Wednesday.
The Ukrainian Premier League resumed play on Tuesday, the country’s National Flag Day, in another show of defiance following Russia’s invasion in February, which ended last season’s championship prematurely.
Shakhtar Donetsk and Metalist 1925 Kharkiv were the first teams to take the field in a show of defiance and an attempt to lift the spirits of a nation still reeling from the effects of the war.
Precautions include only holding matches in Kyiv and the west of the country, and only in stadiums equipped with bomb shelters. There will be no spectators, and the referee’s whistle will not be enough to stop play, as air raid sirens will be installed to warn of impending danger.
Despite this, Zinchenko believes that resuming the Ukrainian league is critical to restoring some semblance of normalcy and boosting morale in a country that has demonstrated incredible strength in the face of horrors.
Reflecting on Tuesday’s kick-off, he said: “It’s important for the country and all Ukrainian people because nobody was ready for this situation. People are still suffering and we need to fight every single day everywhere, but we need to keep going.
“People deserve the lives they had before. I’d like to say a massive thanks to the Ukrainian federation, and president Zelensky who said we needed to play our competition in Ukraine. I know it’s not going to have the best facilities but we need to keep going. “It’s difficult for me to imagine how it’s going to be,” he added.
“There could be a siren and the players need to stop at some point, but it’s so important to show the rest of the world that the Ukrainian people don’t give up, and in any situation, they carry on.” Zinchenko, who has represented Ukraine 52 times, joined Arsenal from Premier League champions Manchester City in July.