O

Oleksandr Zinchenko signs a Ukrainian flag with his image on during Arsenal's pre-season tour of the United States
Zinchenko made his international debut for Ukraine in October 2015

One day, when his daughter asks “what did you do to help when war ripped through our homeland?”, Oleksandr Zinchenko wants to be able to look her in the eye and say “we did our best”.

It is why the Arsenal and Ukraine defender, together with retired legendary striker Andriy Shevchenko, has organised the ‘Game4Ukraine’ charity match at Stamford Bridge on 5 August.

Dozens of high-profile former players – including Gerard Pique and Patrick Vieira – have pledged their support to raise money for the reconstruction of a school in Ukraine that was hit by missiles following Russia’s invasion of the country.

Zinchenko visited the school in Chernihiv Oblast to see the extent of the damage and has decided to do what he can to help, despite the game being played the day before he will feature for Arsenal against his old club Manchester City in the Community Shield at Wembley.

“We are using football to represent our country in the best way,” Zinchenko said.

“It’s so important not just to raise funds to build a school, but to send a message to the rest of the world and to the Ukrainian people, staying there and fighting for their independence, to say: ‘You are not alone’.

“Some people have fatigue from this war but we cannot give up. We need to fight for our freedom and independence.

“I couldn’t imagine in 2023 this could happen – the place where you were born and raised, and one day the other country comes and destroys everything.

“We need to stick together and fight until the end.”

  • Ukraine war: Six sporting lives lost
  • Nerves over Ukraine’s crucial moment at US summit
  • Zinchenko on ‘mission’ to reveal truth

The invasion has now lasted for over 17 months, causing extensive damage and numerous casualties.

The international community has almost universally backed Ukraine, in many cases sending weapons and equipment, or imposing sanctions on Russian companies or individuals.

Zinchenko previously thanked the world for standing with Ukraine and says he takes comfort from the small gestures from people.

“I saw a family and their kid, who was maybe seven years old,” he said. “The kid had no shirt on but he had a temporary tattoo on his shoulder.

“It was a Ukrainian flag. It made me think ‘Wow, these guys are with us’.

“This little things mean a lot for us. It makes me so proud.”

As well as the charity match at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, Tottenham will also host a pre-season game against Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk on 6 August.

Funds raised from that fixture will go to Shakhtar’s charitable foundation in support of the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

“My mission is to help as much as I can,” Zinchenko added.

“Me, obviously, using football, which is the best sport in the world to represent our country with all the ex-players, legends, actors.

“I want, when they grow up and ask what I did when this war happened in our homeland, to look into my daughter’s eye and say ‘Me and your mum tried to do our best’.”

  • Latest Arsenal news, analysis and fan views
  • Get Gunners news notifications
  • Listen to the latest The Far Post podcast

How to follow Arsenal on the BBC banner

  • Our coverage of the Gunners is bigger and better than ever before – here’s everything you need to know to make sure you never miss a moment
  • Everything Arsenal – go straight to all the best content

Arsenal banner footer

You might also like...

P