War hurt Ukraine’s Euro 2016 campaign, says sorry coach

Marseille (AFP) – Ukraine’s two-year-old war stopped the country getting past the European Championship finals group stage, coach Mykhailo Fomolenko said Monday.

“Football in Ukraine is not an exceptional thing, in our lives we have a very hard situation, a conlict situation, football is influenced by that,” Fomolenko told reporters in Marseille ahead of their final match against Poland.

“Our domestic league suffered too because of it, there is a chain reaction, the consequences of it are that we could not fulfill our task here to get out of the group,” he said.

With two defeats against Germany and Northern Ireland to start Group C, Ukraine became the first team to be eliminated at Euro 2016, and have only pride to play for in the Stade Velodrome.

“We say sorry for that to our supporters,” Fomolenko said.

Even if Ukraine beats Poland they cannot overtake the third-placed Northern Ireland.

In the last decade  Ukrainian clubs like Dynamo Kiev and Shaktar Donetsk bought foreign stars that made them feared in the Champions League.

But the conflict and economic crisis has seen the powerful clubs lose funding and home venues are considered too dangerous for opposing sides to visit because of clashes in surrounding streets.

Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region in 2014 saw two of the Black Sea peninsula’s teams leave Ukraine’s top division — a move that upset UEFA, which barred them from joining the Russian championship.

Shakhtar Donetsk and a few other eastern teams have been forced to flee their grounds in rebel-held territories and play in Kiev or nationalist western Ukraine.

This allowed them to continue taking part in European competitions, but their support has collapsed.

The success of Shakhtar and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk — surprise finalists of last year’s Europa League — was built around their purchase of stars from Brazil and other nations for huge sums.

Security fears and budget cuts are seeing those players leave for far safer European countries. 

Brazilian Douglas Costa moved from Shaktar to Bayern Munich last year for an estimated $30 million.

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