‘I could take two or three enemies out’ - Ukraine manager Petrakov on fighting Russia & fears they would shell players if football resumed

Oleksandr Petrakov UkraineGetty/GOAL

Oleksandr Petrakov is a proud Ukrainian and opted not to flee following Russia's invasion, with the national football team's coach saying he could “take two or three enemies out”.

At 64 years of age, and with his day job requiring full focus on sporting matters, Petrakov offered to join the fight against Vladimir Putin’s forces as shells began to drop from the sky.

His family urged him to reconsider but, with normal life put on hold for the foreseeable future, staying put was the only option that the fiercely patriotic figure was prepared to consider.

Article continues below

What has been said?

Petrakov told The Guardian of his decision to stand firm: “My family told me to go to western Ukraine but I refused. I said: ‘I am from Kyiv, I can’t leave’.

“I didn’t think it would be correct as people have to defend and I can’t run. I thought, if they come to Kyiv I will pick up a weapon and defend my city.”

He added: “I am 64 but I felt it was normal to do this. I think I could take two or three enemies out.”

The bigger picture

Petrakov has seen competitive football in Ukraine suspended indefinitely, but a World Cup 2022 play-off clash with Scotland is still due to take place in June.

Preparations for that contest are proving tricky, with it virtually impossible to plan training sessions while the constant threat of military action hangs over the region – with plans to hold camps in the west of Ukraine being shelved for now.

Petrakov said: “There is also shelling in western Ukraine. And if someone says that the national team training camp has started, the enemies could start shelling us.

“These people are without morals, or principles, and we couldn’t risk our players. The Russians are not our brothers, they are the horde.”

Will the game go ahead?

Fans Ukraine
Getty Images

If Ukraine were to make their way past Scotland, then a play-off final against Wales would be lined up.

Petrakov is still hoping to guide his nation to Qatar 2022, but admits that the odds are being stacked against his team.

He said of the need to get his players – particularly those tied to Ukrainian clubs – match sharp before taking in such important fixtures: “We could play at Wembley, for example, against a London club.

“It could be a good exhibition game, a response for the Ukrainian army, as well as preparatory work for the Scotland game.

“We have to play because without the [practice] games, it would be very hard to get to play with Scotland.”

Petrakov added on the prospect of ever lining up against Russia again at some point in the future: “I wouldn’t want this to happen while I am still alive.

“I don’t [want] to shake hands with these guys … We have to build a great wall and do what we can do to separate from them.”

Further reading