More than a game. Tomorrow night, Shakhtar Donetsk will play much more than a Champions League match against Real Madrid. Apart from the result, the objective will be to send a strong message to Europe and the whole world by showing that the club is still standing despite the war that has been going on for months and even years between Ukraine and Russia. . This is the third conflict experienced by Darijo Srna, a former Shakhtar player now director of football. “In 1991 in Croatia, in 2014 in Donetsk and now all over Ukraine”explained the Croatian in the columns of brand.
The opportunity for him to tell the daily life of a training course not like the others. “The start was a disaster. We were in kyiv with the team and we took care of organizing everything, especially with the foreign players. Some left by car, others by train… We are a team with no fixed address and that is the most painful. We played in Lviv, in Odessa, in Kharkov, now the Champions League in Warsaw… My daughter calls me and I tell her that one day I will be in kyiv, the next day in London… Sometimes, I wake up and I don’t know where I am.
A team without a fixed stadium
He pursues : “on Saturday we played against Metalist, the alarms went off warning of a possible attack and we had to go back to the locker room to resume the game 15 minutes later. We have to change hotels, buses, we train with mermaids, we travel with mermaids… This is our life today and we have to accept it. We must be an example, just as the army is for us. We play for our fans and for Ukraine. I am proud of this team. For me, they are heroes”.
Heroes who had to make a long journey to get to the Spanish capital and play the C1 match there. “Today [hier] we train, then we have 7-8 hours by bus to Poland because it is not allowed to fly from Ukraine and, later, 4 hours by plane. We have a difficult life, but no player at any time complained or said he was tired.. Proud of his men, Darijo Srna took advantage of this interview to settle some accounts. FIFA is particularly in its sights.
Srna tackles FIFA and certain clubs
“UEFA, through Ceferin, did everything they could to help us and Ukrainian football. FIFA, on the other hand, destroyed us. She never protected us. If Real Madrid, Sevilla, Barcelona or Bayern had been in our situation, I’m sure they would have helped them quickly. We too are a team and we have given a lot to European football over the past 20 years. I would like someone from FIFA to come to Ukraine, live with us and other teams and feel what it is like to live with sirens and bombs”.
The Shakhtar leader also does not understand FIFA’s decision to free foreign players after the start of the war. “We had 14 foreigners whose market value was between €150m and €200m and they were allowed out on loan without freezing their contracts. Salomon and Tetê had a year and a half on their contract, they went to Fulham and Lyon and when they return they will only have six months left to be free. It’s unacceptable (…) Everyone said they were going to help us, that they didn’t want our players for free… but there are teams who have taken advantage of our situation. Nothing happens. Life is long and it’s like a boomerang, you throw it and it comes back to you”.
The leader is proud of his “heroes”
Shakhtar, which has lost several Brazilian players (Tetê, Neres, Dodo, etc.), is trying to hold on. “We may have lost a certain identity, but Mudryk is better than all the Brazilians who have passed through here”. He also congratulated Lassina Traoré, the only foreign player to have remained in a training under construction. Nobody believed that we would play again, we did not know what would happen to the teams… Well, we lost 14 players, we only keep 2-3 starters compared to a year ago… but we have created a good team, very young, with a very ambitious coach (Igor Jovicevic). In the 6-1 win against Metalist, for the first time in 20 years, we fielded 11 Ukrainians from the start and 90% came from our Academy.
What to make proud a club which is rebuilt day after day. Leader of the championship with 13 points (4 wins, 1 draw), Shakhtar, which started its Champions League campaign with a success against Leipzig and a draw against Celtic, proves that it is still there.“When it was announced that we were going straight into the group stage, a lot of people expected us to score no points. “It’s not the same Shakhtar as before,” they said. It’s logic. We lost 14 players and our technical staff, but still, we are in the Champions League and we have four points. Going to the round of 16 would be incredible, but it’s difficult..
Ukrainians have nothing to lose
He added : “This team has character and courage. We are not afraid of anyone (…) We have an exemplary president. He had his business in Donetsk and then suffered an attack in Mariupol. He lost more than anyone, between 10 and 15 billion… but Shakhtar is his passion, his life, his family. He pays wages on time. He calls us every day to see how the team is doing… I’m proud to work with him for more than 25 years (…) We hope to return to Donetsk. We believe in it. We will continue to fight for this… and we will win.”. A strong message from Srna, who warned the Merengues. “They are the favourites, but we want to show our football and, I insist, we have nothing to lose”. The message got through!