Defending Kyiv

The Russian-born former Ukrainian international midfielder Oleksandr Aliyev took up arms when his birth country attacked the city he calls home.

By Emanuel Roşu

Russian-born Oleksandr Aliyev is ready to defend Ukraine at any cost. Born in Khabarovsk in Eastern Russia, the former Ukrainian international joined the defence forces in Kyiv less than 24 hours after Russia invaded on 24 February. The 37-year-old abandoned contact with his parents, who don't believe Putin started a war in the neighbouring country. Aliyev, who featured for the likes of Lokomotiv Moscow, Anzhi, and Dynamo Kyiv during his playing days, represented Ukraine 28 times at international level.

War and its tragedies does not allow Aliyev to think too much about football. He does remember the time he challenged Lionel Messi for the top position in the goalscorers' charts at the 2005 Youth World Cup in The Netherlands, but that seems to have happened in another lifetime. Aliyev's new reality is rather different. He's wearing green army clothes and needs to scan every person he comes across. Unlike his playing days, when a pair of boots was all he needed to shine, he now wears his gun at all times and is ready to use it.

Aliyev had to crawl beneath the Russian bullets to survive during the attack on Kyiv. Now, he can only sleep for a few hours at night because of the depression caused by the dramatic moments he went through.

Josimar has spoken to Oleksandr Aliyev in Kyiv, where he is currently camped.

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