Since the invasion began on February 24, Shevchenko has used her platform to raise awareness and funds for her beloved homeland.

Like many, the former Ukraine captain and national team manager was deeply affected by the war and says it took him weeks to come to terms with what was happening back home.

“Personally, it’s very difficult for me. I still feel frustrated with what happened,” he told CNN Sport.

“I sometimes asked the same question and couldn’t find the answer, but now we only have one direction. We have to win this war and start rebuilding the country.”

Shevchenko and tennis star Elina Svitolina have since been named ambassadors for UNITED24, an organization created by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to channel donations to the war effort.

The initiative has so far raised over $166 million and more projects are underway to raise even more.

“The message is very clear. Since the beginning of the war, Ukraine needs a lot of help,” said Shevchenko, who won the Ballon d’Or in 2004, adding that he was in communication with Zelensky .

“I am here, as part of the UNITED24 platform, to raise awareness and talk about the war to try to find the funds for humanitarian and medical aid, because this is what Ukraine needs right now. .

“We need support […] to continue for our future, our independence and our democratic path.”

‘We need your help’

Shevchenko, who has played for a number of top European teams such as AC Milan and Chelsea, recently traveled to Poland to meet Ukrainian children who had fled war and are now facing a future uncertain as refugees.

While there, he praised tennis player Iga Swiatek and Polish soccer star Robert Lewandowski for doing their part in fundraising and war awareness.

Last month, Swiatek organized and played in a charity match which aimed to benefit Ukrainians in need of support.

“It’s very important because right now athletes are icons for the younger generation,” adds Shevchenko.

“For people to take a stand against the war is very important, to send the message across the world to be against the war and to support peace in Ukraine.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was widely covered by global media at first, but Shevchenko says it’s “normal” that the news cycle continues.

However, he says it’s important for people to know how dangerous it is for those still living in Ukraine amid the daily shelling.

Just recently, Ukrainian officials accused Russian forces of launching rockets at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, raising fears of an accident.

The UN watchdog warned that the fighting in the occupied compound risked a “nuclear catastrophe”.

“We must not forget what is happening in Ukraine. The Russians continue to bomb and the war has never stopped,” Shevchenko said.

“Ukrainian people, for us we need incredible support from the world. Please don’t forget us. We need your help.”

power of sport

Shevchenko says he has seen how powerful sport can be in raising awareness and boosting morale in the country since the start of the war.

In June he watched the Ukrainian national team beat Scotland in their first competitive game since the invasion and, despite his country failing to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar after losing against Wales, Shevchenko said the team had given his compatriots hope.
Ukraine stun Scotland in World Cup qualifiers to boost morale in war-torn nation

“Sport has incredible power to unite people,” he says. “It was amazing to sit in the crowd of Scots and have incredible support for Ukraine.

“I felt like we were playing at home because people united around the terrible war in Ukraine and wanted Ukraine to succeed.

“I think the players did very well and tried very hard, but that’s sport, and in sport there is only one winner.”

The Ukrainian Premier League is now set to return later this month after fixtures were suspended when fighting broke out.

The country’s sports minister, Vadym Guttsait, said matches would be played behind closed doors and in stadiums equipped with security measures.

“It’s very important for the people, for the rest of the world – we can send the message that Ukraine is here,” Shevchenko said of the prospect of national football returning.

“Even if we are at war inside the country, we will fight because we also want to live like normal countries, normal lives.”

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