Ukraine coach wants Euros success to help fight Putin
Petrakov was in Frankfurt for the Euro 2024 qualifying draw on Sunday – but he admits he can’t imagine what life will be like when the tournament kicks off in Germany.
Ending the war – rather than qualifying – is his priority, but he still wants to use football to lift the spirits of those fighting for Ukraine.
“We have a connection with the guys on the front line because they send messages to the players,” Petrakov said. “We think they need our win…it’s important for everyone to lift their spirits.”
Petrakov is 65, so he was free to leave Ukraine after the Russian invasion in February. But he chose to stay in his native country with his family.
“I can’t be in the army because of my age and I don’t have any special skills, but I still stay in Ukraine,” he said. “We live our lives day to day. Any day, you never know what might happen because the people who are against us might do anything. Every day many people die in our country, it is difficult to say what it will be in 2024. I cannot predict.
On the football pitch, Ukraine have a tough job qualifying for Germany after being drawn in the same group as Euro 2020 finalists Italy and England. North Macedonia and Malta are also part of the group.
Ukraine, which missed the next World Cup when beaten by Wales in the playoffs, will likely have to play their home games at a neutral venue due to the war. He has been playing in Poland since the invasion.
“For my guys it’s difficult,” said Petrakov. “They don’t see their families. They want to end the war as soon as possible and play in front of our fans in Kyiv, Lviv, maybe Kharkiv, we don’t know.
“It’s more important to end the war and stop killing people. This is the most important for us.
Russia have been banned from competition by FIFA and UEFA and Petrakov insists the sanctions must continue.
“We have already said, ‘How can they compete when their military is killing our children, killing our women and killing our men?’ “, did he declare. “The rules say they can’t compete when they act like that.
“We’ve said it before, we’re totally against it, so we hope it won’t be allowed before the end of the war. The Russians supported Putin and they clearly showed it, so it’s not possible.
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
James Robson is on https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson