Captain Ukraine

In September football manager Yuriy Vernydub celebrated the win of a lifetime. Now he has joined the Ukrainian army, fighting for his life and home country. Whilst Putin’s forces are bombing Ukraine and killing a vast number of civilians, Vernydub spoke to Josimar from the front line.

By Emanuel Roşu and Serhii Levchenko

Back in September, Sheriff Tiraspol shocked the world of football beating Real Madrid 2-1 in the Champions League group stage. Sheriff, the champions of Moldova, are a team with a yearly budget not bigger than 5 million euro, or half of star opponent Karim Benzema’s alleged yearly salary. They scored the winner at the Bernabéu in the 89th minute, when Luxembourg international Sebastien Till made the shot of his life to beat a hapless Thibaut Courtois.

56-year-old Ukrainian coach Yuriy Vernydub was all smiles as he hugged his players after the game's final whistle in Madrid. Just like each of his players, Vernydub was having the time of his life. Appointed head coach at Sheriff in 2020, Vernydub previously spent eight years at Zorya Luhansk, in his native country, then coached Shakhtyor Soligorsk in Belarus for a year before Sheriff snapped him up.

With players of 17 nationalities on their roster and coming from Transnistria, a breakaway state under heavy Russian influence with its own currency, government, and passport, Sheriff plays its part in a mad story.

Vernydub was last in charge of a Sheriff match on 24 February, when his side lost the qualification to the Europa League round of 16 after a penalty shootout in Braga. The coach woke up in the middle of the night as his son called him to say Russia had invaded. Vernydub couldn't go back to sleep. He decided to ...

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