Friday, June 9

Valdivia raises the flag of peace

The Ukrainian Olek (with bib) between the Russians Nikita and Gleg and Blázquez. / ABC


The Ukrainian Oleksandr Horodenko shares a locker room with the Russians Nikita Altukhov and Gleb Vasilenko

Sport knows no borders and once again teaches a lesson against the barbarism of a war. Football has brought together a Ukrainian and two Russians in the small town of Valdivia under the same colors and the same shield. In a report published by ABC, he tells through the team’s coach, Pedro Blázquez, how is the relationship between the Ukrainian Oleksandr Horodenko and the Russians Nikita Altukhov and Gleb Vasilenko and their reaction after the invasion. The three share a dressing room at Valdivia, a club from the Primera Extremeña where they arrived this season. Three players barely 20 years old united by football and who suffer from the war between their countries while defending the same flag of peace. “Olek is the one who is much more aware of the mobile these days. It’s normal because his father is on the front lines with a rifle and his mother is now living locked up in a bunker in Kiev,” says Pedro Blázquez in a conversation with ABC. Although the invasion has not changed the relationship between good companions, before and after the bombing and casualty reports began. “They are athletes and coexistence between them is normal, as it was before,” adds the Valdivian coach.

The daily treatment allows him to be the person who best knows these footballers who have come from the East in search of an opportunity. For all three, football is their job. Oleksandr was the first to arrive, in October last year. In January, the Russians Nikita and Gleb joined. None of them could imagine what awaited them living thousands of kilometers from home. «They are cold, as you imagine people from Eastern Europe, but close. They also have a good relationship with the rest of the squad,” says Pedro Blázquez. «The Ukrainian is the most open, the Russians are more closed, they have a very competitive character». They share a wardrobe, although they do not live together. «The Ukrainian resides in the house we have in Valdivia, the Russians in another one we have in Miajadas. The three of them have integrated well in these towns.”

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The trip of Oleksandr, Nikita and Gleb, and that of several boys of other nationalities, has ensured, at least for this season, the continuity of an entity that this summer could not find players in surrounding towns. “Before each training session I talk to Olek to ask him how the situation is in his country, how he is, but I also talk to the Russians,” he says. Gleb, however, has not had a good time either because his parents, despite being Russian, lived in Kiev. Until last Thursday they could not leave for Turkey.

Players are obviously no strangers to the war that is devastating Ukraine. When the bombing started, Oleksandr told the technician to go back to his country to lend a hand. «I told him that perhaps he has more possibilities to lend that hand from here, with humanitarian aid, to get part of his family out. It is normal for him to want to leave, he has his father there fighting with a rifle », explains the coach.

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