Andriy Yarmolenko: football is a distraction not to “go crazy” during the war in Ukraine


ndriy Yarmolenko says football has kept him from ‘going crazy’ as he deals with the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The 32-year-old was given compassionate leave by West Ham and manager David Moyes after Russia invaded his country in February.

Yarmolenko’s wife and children are now safely back in London after fleeing via Poland and the Ukraine international has returned to playing for West Ham, scoring emotional goals – against Aston Villa and Sevilla – in his two first matches.

“David Moyes told me that I can choose whether to train or not and that I have to do everything I can to keep my family safe,” Yarmolenko told Ukrainian YouTube channel Football 1/2/3. .

“I had to stay professional so I came back. I was just going crazy and you need to be distracted. But even now I don’t know what the other results are. It’s just that practice ends and then the phone calls home.

Ukrainian Andriy Yarmolenko is now back for West Ham after receiving compassionate leave from the club

/ AFP via Getty Images

“It’s honestly scary to talk about. We have to help each other. If we don’t, nobody will.

“I’m sure we won’t be beaten by any country. No one can ever break our spirit.”

Yarmolenko’s family is now safe, but at the start of the conflict they remained in Ukraine and were in the capital Kyiv, leaving the striker feeling helpless in London.

“When it all started, on February 24, I arrived at training and I couldn’t even speak,” Yarmolenko said. “I had tears in my eyes. I asked the coach to let me go home.

“I didn’t think it could happen. I sent my family to Kyiv because my child had to have a doctor’s appointment.

“Can you imagine how I was when it started the next morning? I just wanted to run and bang my head against a wall. What a fool I sent my family to Kyiv and I’m sitting in London.”

Yarmolenko, who was born in the Russian city of St. Petersburg but grew up in Chernihiv, Ukraine, still has extended family at home.

“All relatives are alive and well,” he said. “My cousins ​​help keep in touch with uncles, aunts. The ones over there, where there’s constant bombing, they’re in bomb shelters, hidden in basements.”

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