#Oleksandr #Petrakov #Summer #Soldier
This Sunday, Ukraine challenge Wales in Cardiff in the hope of snatching their ticket to the next World Cup. An end of summer that the Zbirna you will approach with the help of your impromptu guide, Oleksandr Petrakov. A discreet and unexpected coach, the sixty-year-old could achieve one of the country’s greatest sporting feats in a highly symbolic context.
Arms in the air, a moment of silence before a shout of joy. The image of Oleksandr Petrakov, celebrating his victory against Scotland last Wednesday at Hampden Park (1-3), marked Ukraine’s qualification for the 2022 World Cup play-off final. First stage of the historic goal set by the coach 64 years old. , invested with a mission as sporting as it is political.
the famous anonymous
It must be said that it was as a surprise guest that Oleksandr Petrakov landed on the bench for the yellows, in August 2021. At the end of a still triumphant European Championship (quarterfinals), Andriy Shevchenko did not exactly want to continue the adventure. and he left the ship to his eldest son, then an illustrious stranger. After a career as a defender at humble second- and third-tier Soviet clubs, Oleksandr embarked on a journey as an educator. First at the Dynamo kyiv training center (2002-2011), then within the youth national teams since 2012. Leading all categories in Ukraine (U16, U17, U18, U19, U20), the coach has since built a solid reputation. in the local closed circle, with more than ten years of experience, a victory in the 2019 U-20 World Cup and the emergence of talents such as Andriy Lunin or Vitalii Mykolenko.
Less conspicuous than the name “Sheva”, “Oleks” was given a mission in relative anonymity: to take the Zbirna in Qatar. All this before, unfortunately, the beginning of the Russian invasion. A terrible human tragedy, which came to remind both Ukraine and Russia of a painful past and relegated football to the background of priorities. In his breath, the armed conflict has claimed thousands of innocent lives and has forced the sport to adopt this hideous way of life. Remaining in Kyiv with his wife Irina and refusing to leave his city despite the shelling, Oleksandr Petrakov did not escape the horrors of war. To the point of offering his services to the armed forces in February, in the columns of the guardian : “I’m from Kyiv and I don’t want to leave! There are people who sacrifice themselves to defend our lands, so there’s no way I’m going to run away. If the Russians come, I will take up arms and defend my city! I may be 64 years old, but I can take down two or three enemies. » A “crude” speech that will not have found an echo among the militias, judging the coach too old to participate in the offensives.
The battle is on the ground.
Away from the front, Oleksandr Petrakov has decided to honor his homeland on the pitch. At the beginning of April he was in charge of organizing a training camp for the players of the local Premier-Liha. west of the Ukraine and in total secrecy, in order to “to prevent the enemy from starting to bombard” , in his words. A rally that included preparation in Germany, this time at the end of May, punctuated by a friendly against Borussia Mönchengladbach. Pieces of soccer found, in view of the capital work that awaited his protégés in this month of June.
First against Scotland, it was buoyed by players playing abroad and a full season – Andriy Yarmolenko at the helm – that Petrakov could rely on to get through the tartan army. A first prey passed with great success, with the symbolism very highlighted by the interested party: “I no longer have emotions, they all stayed on the fieldhe said at a press conference. This victory was not for me or for the team members, but for our country. The armed forces in the trenches or in the hospital thank us, but we also thank them. We play for those who fight, to the last drop of their blood. » Moved to tears, Oleksandr Petrakov has not forgotten the “principal”. In search of a World Cup, sixteen years after the German adventure, the placid strategist says he is ready to respond to Wales in Cardiff: “We have taken a very small step towards our goal, there are still Wales in our way and we will do everything to make the Ukrainians proud. » Onze contre onze, sans la complaisance d’un scénario worthy of l’Eurovision et face à des adversaires également prêts à marquer l’histoire des leurs, l’Ukraine comptera donc sur son soldat de l’été pour enfin reprimre à rêver in winter.
By Adel Bentaha