Dynamo Kyiv – Football in wartime – Kyiv Post
Ukrainian side Dynamo Kyiv are forced to play all of their European matches at home because of the war in their country – and the burden of constant travel and the absence of their fans is taking its toll.
After two Europa League Group B matches, Ukraine’s most successful club are currently in last place without a single point.
After Benfica ended their Champions League qualifying hopes, Dynamo’s last-minute 2-1 loss to Turkish club Fenerbahce in Istanbul last month came as no surprise.
But Dynamo raised eyebrows a week later when they lost to smaller opponents AEK Larnaca of Cyprus in a game played in Poland. Only a few thousand spectators attended the match at the 15,000-seat Cracovia Stadium in Krakow, and Dynamo’s ‘hosts’ had to travel hours from Ukraine to reach the venue.
“It’s physically difficult, because we travel constantly, by bus, then by plane. Also, we still have to go back to Ukraine to play the league here,” Oleksandr Karavayev, a 30-year-old Dynamo midfielder, told AFP at the team’s training base in Vynnyky near Lviv. in western Ukraine.
The Training Base is just another staging point for Dynamo.
Last weekend, after training there, the team had to take a long bus trip to the neighboring region of Zakarpattia for a national game against local team Mynai on Sunday.
After the game, a 1-0 win, the club face another long bus trip for a flight to France for their next Europa League game against Rennes on Thursday.
These long journeys have become an exhausting routine for Dynamo since the airspace above the country was closed following the Russian invasion in February.
” It’s tiring. We use all possible types of recovery,” Karavayev said.
“We travel a lot more now and it’s a lot more exhausting. We are not based in one place, but constantly on the move,” another player, Vladyslav Kabayev, told AFP.
No feeling of being at home
Dynamo players complain of having little support in Poland, although they admit the situation is once again exacerbated by the war.
Since the start of the conflict, men of military age have been banned from leaving Ukraine, so the stadium in Krakow was mostly filled with women and children.
“We understand that the current situation is such that many people are not up to football,” Karavayev said. “But we have to play if we have the chance.”
Kabayev echoed this, saying “there is no feeling of a home stadium when we play in Poland”.
“We are grateful to the fans for coming, but it would be much better and more enjoyable to play in Kyiv,” he added.
In addition to the absence of their supporters at the stadium, Dynamo players hate the long separation from their loved ones.
“It’s psychologically difficult. Our families aren’t there. We spend very little time together,” 27-year-old midfielder Kabayev said.
Top-level national football, suspended since the start of the war, returned to Ukraine in August.
But Dynamo, who were seen as pre-season favorites to win the Ukrainian Premier League, are now in ninth place with just six points after four matches.
However, despite all the current difficulties, the players are determined to fight.
“We are playing and showing that we are a Ukrainian club and we are strong and nothing will break us,” Karavayev said.
“War puts a lot of pressure on footballers and our families. Of course, it’s very difficult for us,” added his teammate Kabayev.
Dynamo have had a bit more time to prepare as club football has given way to national team matches over the past two weeks.
“We have been training a lot and we strongly believe that this two-week break will be beneficial for us.”