De Zerbi: ‘Ukraine giving lesson to Western countries’

epa09224337 Sassuolo's coach Roberto De Zerbi reacts at the end of the Italian Serie A soccer match US Sassuolo vs SS Lazio at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia, Italy, 23 May 2021. EPA-EFE/SERENA CAMPANINI

Shakhtar Donetsk coach Roberto De Zerbi and his staff have arrived in Italy: ‘We won’t be happy until Ukrainians are free. They are giving a lesson to Western countries.’

The former Sassuolo coach had returned to Kyiv from Turkey, where Shakhar had been preparing for the second part of the season, which was supposed to resume last weekend after the winter break. The national league was suspended following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and De Zerbi and his staff experienced the first days of the war from a hotel in the country’s capital.

He initially refused to leave until all their players had left the country. The former midfielder has now returned to Italy with a flight from Hungary and spoke to Sky Sport Italia upon his arrival at the Bergamo Airport.

“We are at home, we are happy because we returned to our families, but we won’t be really happy until the people of Ukraine are free,” he told Sky Sport Italia.

“We left the hotel quickly, reaching the station, which was close-by, by foot. The journey by train took nine hours. Then we took a bus to Budapest, where we took the flight.

“War has to stop now. Nobody expected such an attack in Ukraine, so much so that the league had not been suspended,” the coach continued.

“I never feared I could not return home and I want to thank [UEFA President] Aleksander Čeferin for his support.

“He was exceptional. He followed our trip step by step and behaved like a great person. FIGC President Gabriele Gravina was also very helpful and friendly.

“We are really sorry for the people of Ukraine, who are giving a huge lesson to Western countries in terms of pride, dignity and sense of belonging.”

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