Despite ‘home’ away games, Dynamo Kyiv promise a return to the Europa League

by Agence France-Presse


YURIY DYACHYSHYN / AFP / Getty

Vynnyky, Ukraine, October 5, 2022 (AFP) – The Ukrainian team Dynamo Kyiv is forced to play all its European matches at home due to the war in their country, and the burden of constant travel and the absence of their fans. is taking its toll.

After two games in group B of the Europa League, Ukraine’s most successful club is currently in last place without a single point.

After Benfica ended their Champions League playoff hopes, the Dynamo’s last-minute 2-1 loss to Turkish club Fenerbahce in Istanbul last month was not seen as a surprise.

But the Dynamo surprised a week later when they lost to more modest opponents, AEK Larnaca of Cyprus, in a game in Poland.

Only a few thousand spectators attended the match at Kraków’s 15,000 capacity Cracovia Stadium, with the Dynamo ‘hosts’ having to travel for hours from the Ukraine to reach the venue.

“It’s physically difficult, because we travel constantly, by bus, then by plane. Also, we always have to return to Ukraine to play the championship here,” Oleksandr Karavayev, a 30-year-old Dynamo midfielder, told AFP at the match. The team’s training base in Vynnyky, near Lviv, in western Ukraine.

The training base is just another transit point for Dynamo.

Last weekend, after training sessions there, the team had to take a long bus ride to the neighboring Zakarpattia region for a domestic game against local team Mynai on Sunday.

After the game, a 1-0 win, the club face another long bus ride for a flight to France for their next Europa League game against Rennes on Thursday.

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Such long journeys have become a grueling routine for Dynamo since airspace over the country was closed following the Russian invasion in February.

“It’s exhausting. We use all possible types of recovery,” Karavayev said.

“We travel much more now and it’s much more exhausting. We are not based in one place, but constantly on the move,” another player, Vladyslav Kabayev, told AFP.

no feeling of home

The Dynamo players complain that they have little support in Poland, although they accept that the situation is once again exacerbated by the war.

Since the conflict began, men of military age have been banned from leaving Ukraine, so the Krakow stadium was filled with mostly women and children.

“We understand that the situation now is such that many people are not ready for football,” Karavayev said. “But we have to play if we have the chance.”

Kabayev echoed him, saying “there is no feeling of being in a home stadium when we play in Poland.”

“We are grateful to the fans for coming, but it would be much better and more pleasant to play in Kyiv,” he added.

In addition to the absence of their fans in the stadium, the Dynamo players hate the long separation from their loved ones.

“It’s psychologically difficult. Our families are not close. We spend very little time together,” said Kabayev, a 27-year-old midfielder.

Top-flight national football, suspended since the war began, returned to Ukraine in August.

But the Dynamo, considered the pre-season favorites to win the Ukrainian Premier League, are now in ninth place with just six points after four matches.

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However, despite all the current difficulties, the players are determined to show some fight.

“We played and showed that we are a Ukrainian club and that we are strong and that nothing will break us,” Karavayev said.

“The war puts a lot of pressure on footballers and our families. Of course, it is very difficult for us,” added his teammate Kabayev.

The Dynamo have had a bit more time to prepare as club football gave way to national team matches in the last two weeks.

“We have been training a lot and we firmly believe that this two-week break will benefit us.”

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