On Thursday evening, there was a rally outside the Russian embassy to demonstrate against Putin’s war. My wife needed me to take her to the rally, so I dutifully attended. There were only 100-120 there and my heart went out to these people trying to start something to fight against an oppressor and an invader of their country.
There were people from Georgia, Poland, UK and other countries. They were ordinary people just wanting something to be done and feeling powerless. Even if nothing could practically be done, they were providing each other with the comfort that they were not alone and could come together and share their thoughts, feeling and perspectives.
We got home in time to watch the game on time delay, but essentially live. We talked throughout about the evening, and a lot about what could we do to bring peace to Ukraine and of course who we would get in the next round?!!
Then, to my total surprise, we draw out of the hat the very next day... Dynamo Kyiv. All of a sudden, we hear of the trouble at their game this very Thursday. From the top headlines, it looks as though they are a nasty piece of work. Neofascists dressed up in football colours.
Uproar has arisen across all the Everton forums about the risk and potential violence. Some have suggested boycotting, asking for a neutral venue, playing the game behind closed doors. All natural reactions from a worried fan’s perspective going into what people are calling a war-torn country.
In reality, life goes on as normal in Kyiv as their former Russian brothers are invading their country, annexing Crimea and providing troops and weapons to support an insurrection in the Donbas region. They have also been subjected to some of the world's worst nose-in-the-trough corruption with previous governments taking out 20% of GDP for their personal wealth.
When I look a bit closer at the footage and reports of the Kyiv - Guingamp game, it looks slightly different. By all accounts, the French have used extreme provocation. Some think that hitting below the belt at football matches is fair game – whether it is local rivalries from across the park, or sectarian chants in Glasgow, or plain violence, from the Ultras to the Head Hunters – that football has the ability to put immediate tribal vengeance to the fore, above all else, never ceases to amaze many of us.
Everton and our fans are different: we pride ourselves on our ethics, our sense of fairness, caring for community, and wider causes. We also travel in great numbers and are great visitors to the likes of Wolfsburg.
Kyiv needs a boost; the Ukrainian people need a boost and need to feel that other people care and understand their plight. We as Evertonians have the rare opportunity to set new standards in football supporter behaviour. I know it is more than doable with our massed ranks of genuine, caring football people that have much more upstairs then a CHAF (Chelsea Average Fan!) and build a reputation for Everton across Europe.
With the upcoming fixture, we have an amazing opportunity to reach out with the hand of friendship and support. I would like to call upon the leaders of our Everton supporters groups to start to reach out and see what can be done. I am not well connected, but would help in any way I can.
Our club as well should do everything to foster goodwill, our great Everton reputation, and promote a sense of welcoming from the Kyiv supporters and Kyiv people. I am sure that we could engage in a wider connection with business and community connections. This could be a seminal moment in European fixtures where people use it for building bridges, relationship and commerce between our city and other cities and countries around Europe. It would set a trend to reach out to their supporters' groups to show that we care and we would turn the whole tie into a welcome bon amis guest-fest.
We would love to have a holiday-type extravaganza trip of a lifetime. One way to do it is to reach out and show the hand of solidarity to the Ukrainian people who are going through very difficult times economically and from an invading oppressor.
The Ukrainian people need help, support and a demonstration of solidarity. I am sure we would get the biggest welcome in Kyiv if we took that stance. This would help not only in creating a much safer trip for our fans but also get a bigger support to the game and increased chance of winning.
Reader Comments (16)
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1 Posted 28/02/2015 at 16:40:47
I support the sentiment, from a humanitarian point of view (though didn't Mr Pacifist Putin say it is all western provocation?! snort!); and from a pragmatic point of view (safety of our fans etc).
2 Posted 28/02/2015 at 17:26:03
4 Posted 28/02/2015 at 18:31:48
5 Posted 28/02/2015 at 19:19:57
6 Posted 28/02/2015 at 20:09:57
What I do know tho' is the very excellent work Everton does in the Community and I assume that 'community' here relates to the imminent community in the Liverpool area.
I read Steven Jones's post on another thread and he has now expanded on that and I can feel and understand where he is coming from. On the other hand Trevor Skempton has Ukrainian and Russian relatives - it would be easy to alienate one or the other.
I think that Steven has a fantastic opportunity to pursue his 'idea' with our great club. Much has been said about sport taking the lead in breaking down barriers and this appears to be a 'phenomenal' opportunity for our People's Club to really connect with other People.
Evertonian have a very deep sense of fair play, of excellence and warmth and to my mind travelling Everton fans would be the ideal ambassadors, not just to the Ukraine but to any country to extend the hand of friendship and start a dialogue - who knows where it would lead to.
We are the remaining British Representatives in the Europa Cup and have been looking forward to the travel and camaraderie that all that entails. I do not however, for a moment, think that any fan should put themselves in any danger in their away support of our great club - we are not missionaries but we are Evertonians.
A Thai supporter of ours was recently 'royally' treated by the club having missed his Goodison premier lets hope the club see an opportunity here to open a dialogue with our fellow competitors.
Not sure how all that sounds, but perhaps I have always been an opportunist!!
7 Posted 28/02/2015 at 20:27:46
8 Posted 28/02/2015 at 20:49:36
10 Posted 28/02/2015 at 21:39:12
Eastern Europe from a football perspective is still 'caveman country' and that part of the old soviet empire is still extremely hostile to western football supporters, hence the number of Everton supporters I saw running the gauntlet of opposing groups of young 'skinheads'.
Unfortunately, the reputation of football fans in general from western Europe, makes them easy targets for the local knobs.
I don't buy into those 'nasty' french fans being provocative and responsible for the recent violence.
On arriving at the ground in Belarus a few years back, I have never witnessed a militia presence on the scale I saw that night, clearly expecting trouble, and prepared to take no prisoners if any kicked off.
I'm all for extending the hand of friendship when we travel abroad as a football club, but I genuinely fear for the safety of our fans if the game goes ahead in Kiev.
Have a look at the clip on 'You Tube' of the fighting between Dynamo Kiev fans and those of Bate Borisov recently.
Even the local police stood back until the military arrived to intervene.
11 Posted 28/02/2015 at 21:35:43
The story of Dixie and the Nazis comes to mind.
By all means make every overture at Supporter, Club and Civic level we can. I'm sure we can all live with waving a blue and yellow flag for a day.
I think Putin's State is only the old Soviet Russian Bear dressed up in new clothes, with none of the supposed and debatable good points... from each etc etc. But with all and more besides of the worst Stalinesque excesses.
If the Ultra element is just out for trouble with anybody for any reason, well there is not much you can do except try not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time if you go... but that's the same anywhere.
As we know from Lille if the idiots in charge of the police are as daft as some of the elements they are supposed to control. Then you take a chance where ever you go.
I trust us to make the effort and build on the good impressions we have made going back to Rotterdam.
12 Posted 28/02/2015 at 22:07:15
13 Posted 28/02/2015 at 22:47:55
14 Posted 01/03/2015 at 21:12:47
15 Posted 02/03/2015 at 04:21:08
This is not a "civil war" as some on here have suggested. It is a "manufactured" war, and it will likely not stop in Ukraine unless Putin's actions are curtailed. I lived in Kyiv (Kiev) for 4 years between 1996-2000. Dynamo have a great football tradition and history. For those of you who remember Republic of Ireland vs USSR in 1988 (Jack Charlton's first qualifying tournament as ROI manager, when Ronnie Whelan scored Ireland's equalising goal in 1-1 draw, 9 of the USSR team were Dynamo Kiev players. Says it all.
Kyiv/Kiev is a fantastic city, a real cafe society and one of the undiscovered gems in Europe. This is the real benefit of the Europe League for me, getting to visit places where you would normally not go to, and experiencing different cultures (football and otherwise). Thanks again for your great post, Steven.
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