'The explosions woke us up' - Football suspended in Ukraine amid Russia invasion as Shakhtar boss De Zerbi describes chaos

Roberto De Zerbi Ukraine RussiaGetty/GOAL

Competitive football in Ukraine has been suspended following Russia's invasion, with Shakhtar Donetsk coach Roberto De Zerbi having given an update on his personal situation in the Eastern European country.

Russian forces have advanced onto Ukrainian soil on the orders of president Vladimir Putin, with an increased military presence leading to infrastructure, air defence and air forces being targeted.

As uncertainty and mounting tension reigns, with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy imposing martial law, a call has been made to close down professional football for the foreseeable future.

What has been said?

Following the release of a brief statement from the Ukrainian FA confirming the shutting down of the domestic fixture list, Shakhtar Donetsk coach Roberto De Zerbi has been describing his experiences to Italpress.

The Italian tactician has said of a frightening situation for many of those caught up in events outside of their control: “I'm in my room, it's a bad day.

“I've waited a long time for the federation to suspend the championship, ever since what happened with the Donbass. But I didn't move, because I'm here to play sports and we could not turn our backs on the championship, on the fans who follow us.

“I have thirteen Brazilian boys, my staff, we could go home at least until there was safety [guaranteed but], no, we waited.

“Tonight the explosions woke us up. They suspended the championship this morning and from the windows of the Opera Hotel we saw rows of cars moving – I think they are going to Poland.

“The Italian Embassy had urged us to leave but, I repeat, I am a sportsman, I could not turn my back on the club, on football and go like this - and in the end they closed the airspace and you are here.”

The bigger picture

Former Palermo and Sassuolo boss De Zerbi only linked up with Shahktar in May 2021, with several other offers from across Europe shunned in order to head for Ukraine.

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He has won the Ukrainian Super Cup during his time in Donetsk, but is now waiting to discover when it will be deemed safe enough for sporting action to resume.

Shahktar have a number of non-Ukrainian players on their books that are feeling less than comfortable in their current surroundings, while institutions across Europe are starting to sever ties with Russia and leading companies from the country – with German outfit Schalke revealing that they have removed the Gazprom sponsorship from their shirts.

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