Shakhtar Donetsk will not allow the situation in Ukraine to destroy the team’s morale and will battle on the pitch like Ukrainian soldiers, coach Igor Jovicevic said ahead of its Champions League clash against Real Madrid in Warsaw on Tuesday.
Russia rained cruise missiles on busy Ukrainian cities on Monday, knocking out power and heat in its most widespread air attacks since the start of the war in February.
“You can not destroy us. Our spirit, our unity. You can temporarily break the mood. But you cannot destroy us,” Jovicevic told a news conference on Monday.
“Together we are stronger. And we as sportsmen perceive it as a social responsibility. We must be close to what is happening in Ukraine, and we have great empathy.”
On Monday, missiles tore into busy intersections, parks and tourist sites in the centre of the capital Kyiv.
Explosions were also reported in Lviv, which is a temporary base for the Shakhtar team from Donetsk.
In the Champions League, Shakhtar is hosting its matches in the Polish capital Warsaw due to the ongoing war, which Russia calls a ‘special military operation’.
“Many of my players have their families in Ukraine, and it influences us. But it won’t destroy our morale, and we will fight as all the Armed Forces (of Ukraine) fight for us and our freedom,” Jovicevic said.
“We are worried about this situation now. But still, the game will not be cancelled. We have to go out (on the pitch) and show that we fight for each other. And that we represent the Ukrainian people tomorrow.”
Last week Real Madrid beat Shakhtar 2-1 in Madrid and are top of Group F on a maximum nine points from three games, five ahead of second-placed Shakhtar.