Ukraine women’s national coach fears for players

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Lluís Cortés, the national team coach of Ukraine’s women’s soccer team, is very worried about some of his players and staff.

After winning a tournament in Turkey just before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, some members are now in the middle of a war. “Some stayed in Turkey after our tournament win because they had training camps there with their clubs. But about half of the team is back in Kyiv and on Wednesday with their families. These players haven’t left the country yet, as far as I know.” , said Cortés in an interview with the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”.

“It’s very dangerous to move around Ukraine right now. They hide in bunkers and rural areas, it’s safest there,” said Cortés, who was able to leave the country after a long flight and is back in his homeland. The 35-year-old, who won the treble with the FC Barcelona soccer team in 2021, is in contact with the players and the staff every day – “to know that they are alive. They don’t tell us exactly where they are because they are very afraid of being bugged and spied on by the Russians. One of our players just held up a trophy a few days ago – now she’s washing camouflage clothes for the Ukrainian military.”

According to Cortés, the players could leave the country, but many don’t want to: “They think: if everyone leaves, who will defend their homeland against the Russian invasion? They want to stay, they want to help where they can. There are also association employees who are fighting the Russians at the front.”

He himself feels powerless, says Cortés. “You were just in a hotel, celebrating a tournament victory and everyone was super happy, everything was perfect. Two days later you are fleeing a country at war and you are afraid that you could be killed at any time .”

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