Condolences, rather than joy, came first for Ukraine footballer Andriy Yarmolenko (photo), who plays for the English Premier League club West Ham United and the Ukraine national team. He scored the opening goal 25 minutes into the second half of the game with Aston Villa held at the London Olympic Stadium on Monday, which propelled West Ham to victory. It was his first goal of the season.
Yarmolenko ran towards the audience expressionless after scoring the goal. Then he put up his hands in the air and dropped to his knees. It was to pay condolences to his people that lost their lives to Russian invasion. He covered his face with his hands while his colleagues patted his shoulder. His eyes were filled with tears afterwards and the audience gave him a standing ovation. “It is so difficult for me right now in this moment thinking about football because every day, the Russian army is killing Ukrainian people,” Yarmolenko said. “I am grateful for the club, fans, and British people for thinking for me and Ukraine.”
Yarmolenko’s family escaped from Ukraine by the help of the football club and currently stays in Poland. He was given leave by the club considering his personal situation. Monday’s match was his first after returning from his leave. “For the last few weeks, I trained maybe three or four times. I had to rest for four days because it was impossible to train; I was just thinking about my family and my people,” he said. “I poured everything I had on the ground.”
“His family is currently safe,” said David Moyes, manager of West Ham. “It was a big win and I hope that his goal gives comfort to the people of Ukraine suffering from the war.”
Dong-Wook Kim firstname.lastname@example.org