Football NewsYuriy Vernydub, coach of Sheriff Tiraspol is ready to give his life to defend Ukraine
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Just six months ago, Vernydub achieved the greatest result in the history of this modest team, defeating Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu 2-1 in the Champions League.

Vernydub joined the armed forces to face the Russian army

Whether they are civilians or Ukrainian citizens living abroad, even well-known figures in professional sports, a large part of the Ukrainian people are ready to give their lives to defend their country against the Russian invasion, like Yuriy Vernydub, coach of Moldova’s Sheriff Tiraspol. Just six months ago, Vernydub achieved the greatest result in the history of this modest team, defeating Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu 2-1 in the Champions League. However, a few weeks ago, everything changed, and his life went from coaching the Moldovan team in the Europa League against Braga of Portugal to returning to his country to join the armed forces facing the Russian army. “My son called me at 4:30 am, and he told me the Russians attacked us. I knew then that I would return to Ukraine to fight,” Vernydub told reporters.

“We flew home and landed in Iasi, Romania. I then went by bus to Tiraspol, in Transnistria, with the rest of the team on Friday evening and left for Ukraine first thing on Saturday morning. I enrolled on Sunday. It took 11 hours from Tiraspol to my home in Ukraine, travelling via Odesa, then through Kirovgrad, Kryvyy Rih and then Zaporoje, but I can’t say it was difficult,” the coach added. That 180-degree change in Vernydub’s life was far from easy, but since he decided to return to Ukraine, he has been supported by his players in Sheriff and other coaches.

Some coaches sent Yuriy words of encouragement

“When we beat Real Madrid, I couldn’t imagine this. Some of the Sheriff boys have called me, and I have received voice messages. They asked how my family is doing how my kids are doing. On 1 March, Sheriff played in the league against a rival, and they won. I appreciate that. Some coaches sent me words of encouragement too,” Vernydub said. “Thinking about football motivates me. Football is my life. I hope this war won’t last for long. We will win, and I will go back to my beloved work,” he added. Vernydub’s love for his country motivated him to return to his family and his people to face the Russian army, unlike thousands of his compatriots who preferred to leave Ukraine.

The coach is not afraid of the Russian army

“I don’t want to lie to you. As I was returning home, I saw a lot of strong men leaving the country. If they come back, I’ll be happy. We could have gone to Moldova, and this option is still open for my children, their wives, and my grandchildren. But for my wife and me – we are staying here for sure,” Vernydub said. The Sheriff’s coach reveals that his brother is over 60 years old, his younger son cannot fight for his health, and his elder son does not accompany him because he convinced him to stay at home together with his two young children. Not everyone copes with war. “The heaviest battles are probably 120 km away from where we are. But I made my decision, so everything is OK. I am not afraid.

“I was in the army when I was young – it was mandatory to do it for two years. But it was in a unit for athletes. For two months, we were instructed in theory, and after that, we learned how to handle a gun. But that was so long ago. I can’t say I have any trouble using firearms; I know how to use them,” Vernydub said. “I can’t understand Russian president Vladimir Putin and his circle. And I can’t understand the Russians who are not against him. They say they are setting us free. But from what? They said we are fascists, Nazis. They attack civilian homes but only say they hit the military infrastructure. They are lying,” he added.