Shakhtar Donetsk will not let the situation in Ukraine destroy team morale and will fight on the pitch like Ukrainian soldiers, coach Igor Jovicevic said ahead of their Champions League match. against Real Madrid in Warsaw on Tuesday.
On Monday, Russia rained down cruise missiles on crowded Ukrainian cities, knocking out power and heating in its most extensive airstrikes since the start of the war in February.
“You can’t destroy us. Our spirit, our unity. You can temporarily break the mood. But you can’t destroy us,” Jovicevic told a news conference on Monday.
“Together we are stronger. And we, as athletes, perceive it as a social responsibility. We must be close to what is happening in Ukraine, and we have great empathy.”
On Monday, missiles ripped through busy intersections, parks and tourist spots in the center of the capital kyiv.
Explosions were also reported in Lviv (also called Leopolis in Spanish), the temporary home of the Shakhtar team from Donetsk.
In the Champions League, Shakhtar plays its matches in the Polish capital, Warsaw, due to the ongoing war, which Russia describes as a “special military operation”.
“Many of my players have their families in Ukraine, and that influences us. But it will not destroy our morale, and we will fight like all the (Ukrainian) Armed Forces fight for us and for our freedom,” Jovicevic said.
“Now we are worried about this situation. But even so, the match will not be cancelled. We have to go out (on the field) and show that we fight for others. And that we represent the Ukrainian people tomorrow.”
Last week, Real Madrid beat Shakhtar 2-1 in Madrid and lead Group F with a maximum of nine points from three games, five more than second-placed Shakhtar.