Ahead of EURO 2024, players from Ukraine’s senior men’s national team stated they would do everything they can to portray their country in a positive light during the tournament. When Ukraine qualified for the competition back in March 2024, the players and staff dedicated their successes to the soldiers and citizens defending their country. Now, having recently defeated group opponents Slovakia, the Ukrainians will know that they are one victory away from advancing to the knockout stages in EURO 2024.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the entire country has felt the war’s devastation. One-fourth of the population remains displaced, and tens of thousands have died due to Russia’s brutality. Several cities and towns have been destroyed, and it will cost over one trillion dollars to rebuild the country.

Advertisement

Throughout this chaos and destruction, Ukrainians have sought ways to temporarily preoccupy their minds during this difficult period in their history. One of the methods has been to follow football. For example, Ukraine’s involvement in EURO 2024 has lifted the spirits of many Ukrainians during the ongoing Russian war.

To understand more about the significance of Ukraine’s participation in this summer’s tournament, Kyiv Post spoke with a few Ukrainian civilians and soldiers across the country. Surnames of the quoted individuals have been omitted. Callsigns have been used when appropriate.

UN Says Kyiv Children's Hospital Probably Suffered Russian Direct Hit
Other Topics of Interest

UN Says Kyiv Children's Hospital Probably Suffered Russian Direct Hit

The Okhmatdyt Hospital is a children's specialist facility where families from across the country bring children for the treatment of serious medical conditions, such as cancer and kidney disease.

“Many of us [in Ukraine] are football fanatics,” said Illya, a supporter from Ivano-Frankivsk. “It is important that Ukraine is participating in this tournament.”

Roman, a photojournalist from Lviv, agreed. “Ukraine’s matches [at EURO 2024] are a form of sports diplomacy,” he said. “This is very important” as any coverage of Ukraine at the EUROs reminds the world about Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. “Regardless of Ukraine’s results [in the tournament], it helps keep the focus on the war. There is also a sense of euphoria when Ukraine earns a victory [in the competition].”

Advertisement

A Ukrainian by the callsign of Sian, who is a combat medic in an anti-tank platoon on the front lines, shared a similar sentiment. Ukraine’s participation at EURO 2024 “motivates and fills [Ukrainian soldiers] with pride. When there are results, it makes us want to support our national team even more.”

When Ukraine lost to Romania, it was disappointing. But after Ukraine’s victory against Slovakia, it inspired many Ukrainians. “I really hope that [Ukraine] performs just as well against Belgium [on Wednesday] and secure a top spot in the group,” Sian added.

Meanwhile, a serviceman in the Ukrainian Armed Forces took a deeper approach. “For me, Ukraine’s involvement in EURO 2024 shows that we are an independent country [as we have our own national team],” explained Anton. “While Ukraine competes at EURO 2024, we are also fighting for our independence. This opportunity allows Ukraine to remind Europe about Russia’s ongoing war. While Ukraine competes at the EUROs, we are also fighting for our freedom so that we can continue waving our flag and participating in [things such as] football competitions.”

Advertisement

Finally, Oleh, who is a member of one of Ukraine’s volunteer battalions that specializes in drone operations, said that EURO 2024 is tied to the ongoing Russian invasion. This connection is not what readers may expect.

The Russians know when Ukraine is playing, Oleh explained. “During the Ukrainian games, the Russians fire more bombs at us. Our aviation trackers are constantly notifying us of increased attacks whenever [Ukraine] is playing. But these [Russian] attacks have only further motivated our soldiers and volunteers on the front.”

Ukraine will now face the ultimate test on Wednesday, where they will play Belgium. The Ukrainians will advance to the competition’s knockout stages should they defeat the Belgians. A loss, however, would see Ukraine eliminated from the tournament.

In short, Ukraine’s participation at EURO 2024 is very important for its citizens and soldiers. Strong performances during the June friendlies and the recent match against Slovakia gave Ukrainians a reason to cheer and support their national football team in an otherwise challenging time. Participation in the European Championships will not end the war, but it has uplifted the spirits and morale of many Ukrainians. This has made a difference, even if participation in EURO 2024 is temporary.

Advertisement

Regardless of the result on Wednesday against Belgium, Ukraine’s football ambassadors will know that they have made their country proud.

The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter