War weighs heavily on Ukrainian sport

KYIV, July 4 (Reuters) – Young footballers in the city of Kharkiv mourn the death of their coach, who was killed by a Russian shell last week in an incident that highlights the heavy toll war takes on all sectors of Ukrainian society. , including sports.

“It hurt so much, it’s like I lost a father,” said player Danil Kaskov, taking part in a match held in honor of Andrii Doroshev, who died on June 27 when shells hit a residential area of ​​the second largest city in Ukraine. town.

“I hope he watches over us from above, that we can make him proud. This tournament is a tribute to him, all the trophies are in his memory. Everything is for him,” he said. at Reuters.

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Long proud of its achievements in gymnastics, boxing, football and other sports, Ukraine is counting the cost of the war, now in its fifth month, on its sports infrastructure and its sportsmen.

“More than 100,000 Ukrainian sportsmen have been deprived of any opportunity to train, hundreds of Ukrainian sports facilities have been destroyed,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday as he welcomed the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). ) for interviews in Kyiv.

“Many Ukrainian sportsmen have joined the armed forces to protect our country, to defend it on the battlefield. Eighty-nine sportsmen and trainers were killed in action, 13 were captured and are being held captive by the Russians” , did he declare.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, winner of several world heavyweight boxing championships, played a leading role alongside Zelenskiy in rallying Ukrainian resistance to the invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

His younger brother Wladimir, another world heavyweight boxing champion, enlisted in the Ukrainian reserve army soon after the Russian invasion began on February 24.

DESTRUCTION

Just the past week has brought many graphic images of the destructive impact of war on Ukrainian sport.

Reuters video footage showed the Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute sports complex reduced to heaps of concrete and twisted metal by what authorities said were multiple Russian missile strikes on June 23.

“The fire engulfed 200 square meters (2,150 square feet). Sports equipment, carpets, floors and wall coverings all caught fire. There were no casualties,” the official told Reuters. emergency services, Anatolii Torianyk.

A Ukrainian serviceman said Russian forces deliberately targeted large buildings such as sports halls and schools, believing them to be used by Ukrainian armed forces.

Russian forces deny attacking civilian targets in Ukraine.

Other images circulating on social media in recent days include that of a massive crater believed to have been caused by the Russian shelling of a football pitch in Mykolaiv, a southern city that has also seen particularly heavy Russian shelling.

During his visit to Kyiv on Sunday, the IOC’s Thomas Bach said the organization was ready to help rebuild Ukrainian sports facilities by announcing the tripling of a fund created in February for this purpose, to 7.5 million dollars.

Bach also pledged his support for Ukrainian teams planning to compete in the 2024 Olympics in Paris and the Winter Olympics slated to be held in Italy in 2026.

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Reporting by Reuters Television; Written by Gareth Jones; Editing by Alex Richardson

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