Playing soccer in Ukraine: Echoes of the beautiful game’s painful Second World War ‘Death Match’

National Post | Arts

On Wednesday last, the soldiers approached the other soldiers, although they didn’t get very close. One group — a Russian platoon, maybe several platoons — carried guns, while the other group — Ukrainians — held a soccer ball. The Russians scoffed at the locals: “We bring rifles and you bring a ball!” One group shouted to the next, and then the Russians started firing: bullets volleyed into the air. In response, the Ukrainians flung the ball to the ground. Some of their men chased it — they were soon joined by more men — and then, under intermittent hail of gunfire, a game was played, the teams divided, perhaps alphabetically, by their patrynomic. The Russians chortled: “Such imbeciles! Playing with a ball in a time of war!” Among the Ukrainians, there were whoops and laughter and some grunting despite the guns, and, as the light of day dimmed, the game…

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