Photo: HM Cropix/Sipa

FC Sheriff Tiraspol was the talk of the UEFA Champions League this past fall. Moving up through four qualifying rounds, the Moldovan League champs entered the group stage facing Real Madrid, Inter Milan, and Shakhtar Donetsk. Sheriff finished third in the group with a big 2-1 upset over Real Madrid at the Bernabéu.

Now, Sheriff manager Yuriy Vernydub is in much more serious fight. Vernydub is Ukrainian and the 56-year-old is leaving Sheriff’s home of Transnistria, an unrecognized breakaway state that’s heavily influenced by Russia, to fight for his native Ukraine against Russia.

In a piece by the BBC, Vernydub details how his life has changed over the past week and why he enrolled to serve. Vernydub revealed that he wasn’t able to disclose what he’s doing but he’s taking instruction, is ready to fight, and that he’s not afraid.

One part of Vernydub’s passage talks about Russia president Vladimir Putin that does a good job explaining how Putin is selling the invasion to the Russian people. Putin’s message is pretty much that he’s the hero who is saving Ukrainians with this invasion, which anyone who hasn’t been brainwashed could see that’s not the case. That’s why when someone like Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, a close ally of Putin, revealed he’s selling the club and wants to use the net proceeds of the sale “for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine,” that may or may not also include Russians.

I can’t understand Putin and his circle. And I can’t understand the Russians who are not against him. I understand many of the Russian citizens don’t realise what’s happening. In Russia, things are shown rather differently than they are. They say they are setting us free. But from what? They said we are fascists, Nazis… I can’t even find my words to describe what they’re doing. They are attacking civilian homes, but only say they hit the military infrastructure. They are lying.

Vernydub closed things with optimism that Ukraine would win, praised Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, and thanked Europe for accepting Ukrainian refugees as they flee the country.

I don’t have any doubt in my mind that Ukraine will win this war. I can’t think of anything else. I’m sure of that. I saw this tragedy united us as a nation.

I have total respect for [Ukraine president] Volodymyr Zelensky. No matter what they say about him. I voted for him. People were calling him a clown, but he showed he is a real leader.

He is honest. He made errors too, but it’s normal for everyone to make mistakes. I can imagine how hard it is to lead a country. I have no doubt he is a good man. We have a president who will act in a correct way. I believe in him.

I think peace will happen only when we win. I think Russia’s demands are impossible to reach. We won’t stand down. There is a need for dialogue, but we won’t satisfy their ultimatums. We see negotiations taking place and I hope they will have enough brains to stop this war. First of all, I hope children and women won’t die anymore. This is the most important thing.

I want to thank the rest of Europe for their support. A lot of children and women left for other countries. I thank those countries for this. I thank everyone for their support. I know they are facing a tough choice themselves. I think they are realising that right now Ukraine is the shield for the entire continent.

Some of the Sheriff boys have called me and I have received voice messages. They asked how my family is doing, how my kids are doing. On 1 March, Sheriff played in the league against a rival and they won. I appreciate that. Some coaches sent me words of encouragement too.

Thinking about football motivates me. Football is my life. I hope this war won’t last for long. We will win and I will go back to my beloved work.

[BBC/Photo: HM Cropix/Sipa]

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @phillipbupp