It seems an odd time for Andriy Shevchenko to decide he’s no longer interested in politics – or perhaps it’s exactly the right time for a celebrity with no experience to steer clear of the turmoil in Ukraine.
He’s not alone amongst footballers in saying little about what’s happened. Some wish Ukraine captain and former Bayern Munich midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk would speak out: one blogger has written an imaginary (and probably fanciful) open letter from him, in which he talks of dark outside forces and calls for unity between Ukraine and Russia. That Tymoschuk currently plays for Zenit St. Petersburg – and is one of the club’s modern era legends – perhaps explains his reluctance to express his feelings.
However, another prominent player has been more outspoken. Dinamo Kyiv goalkeeper and journalism graduate Oleksandr Shovkovskiy – who at 39 has played in every single Ukraine championship since independence – has a reputation for eloquence and intelligence. Describing himself as “neither a macho nor a playboy”, he has read Dostoyevsky and Bulgakov and quotes postmodernist writer Viktor Pelevin in talking of his disdain for television.
When the Maidan protests began last year, he used his Facebook page to comment: “I’m not a politician but I’m a citizen. My civil duty is to not be indifferent to the lack of proper rule by the powers that be!” Shovkovsky said he would be attending the protests, and later used Facebook to offer support to an injured protestor. Following the impeachment of President Yanukovych, he raised the question of whether deputies in Ukraine’s parliament should lose their immunity to prosecution.
As things progressed he continued to comment:
“Unity is one of the most important factors…West, East, North, South…some can speak Russian, some Ukrainian. We can argue and have different political views, but we can’t deny that we live under one roof, such a hospitable and welcoming state as Ukraine.”
“I’m always in favour of dialogue, but the will of emotion shouldn’t take over. People here are being strongly emotionally affected by the comments of other people.”
“I won’t be going to Crimea this summer if it’s under the control of Russia. Having served in the army, I could be conscripted. Will I go to the front line if the situation arises? If my country orders me – yes!”
Shovkovskiy writes in Russian, and has friends in the country:
“My Russian friends haven’t reacted badly [to what I’ve said about the political situation], probably because they’re well mannered and educated people. They understand well that we’re being shown a distorted picture of events.”
Over the past year he has been regularly asked about a career in politics. He has remained coy, but hasn’t hidden the fact he has been approached. When he finishes his career, he will surely have a fuller role to play in shaping Ukraine’s future. He is intelligent, but unlike some sporting figures only comments on matters when he feels the need – which makes what he says even more valuable.
Hopefully it isn’t too late for an intelligent, well-liked, unifying figure to have an impact on today’s Ukraine.
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