Foreign football fans share their impressions of Ukraine with The Ukrainian Week
“I have to admit, I’ve heard little of Ukraine. I knew where Ukraine is. I knew it had been part of the USSR and it had Chornobyl. But shortly before Euro 2012, the UK press began to open my eyes. That’s how I learned the truth. I knew I was going to hell (laughing). I found out about what happened to your ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko, about corruption, HIV-infected hookers, uncontrolled police, intolerant and aggressive Ukrainians… I’ve heard that “I’d come back in a coffin!” The thing is that every time our fans go somewhere, the UK press writes that the destination country is full of violence and we’ll all get killed. Every time, literally. Nothing personal about it! It’s just that the media are always looking for sensations, especially tabloids. They need something to catch attention. Just have one swastika painted on a wall next to the airport English journalists just arrived at and you’ll immediately turn into a Nazi country. Maybe those guys do believe in it. Or maybe they just want their papers to sell better. But people are so friendly here. I’ve met many people and they were all very nice to me.”
Olaf and Anders, Sweden
“We’ve been at the fan area for two hours now, just drinking cold beer. Everything seems to be okay so far. There is only one person that’s not here. She’s beautiful and has this braid. Her name is Yulia Tymoshenko. Have you heard of her? Where is she? I’ll be waiting for her. Political repressions are unacceptable in a civilized European state. You can’t persecute someone for their beliefs and views...Your government is just trying to get rid of rivals sacrificing its popularity and respect of the entire world for that.”
“You have these boards with holes where you can stick your head in and take a picture. They are downtown, in the central street, expressing open disdain for the government. One has a guy with a T-shirt that says “Thank you, people of Donbas…” against your president. This was what impressed me because this is the sign of freedom in Ukraine. Something like that would never be possible in Russia, not in our dreams, let alone at Arbat.”
“I think racism, even if it’s spread in Ukraine, should not affect tourists coming for Euro 2012 no matter what their skin colour is. It would be wild! I know that almost every country now has radical rightists. Their views are their views…. But they should realize that people who come for Euro are not staying in Ukraine. Tourists are not enemies even for the most loyal followers of Adolf Hitler or whoever else!... I can’t say much about your country. We’ve only seen the center of Kyiv. It has beautiful architecture. And the atmosphere in the fan area is great.”
“I enjoy wandering around the town and just looking. I’ve seen a lot in Kyiv during these two days. My biggest impression is that there are so many churches in Kyiv! If I saw the city empty, I could think the locals are fanatically religious. But I see that most girls and women wear short skirts and high heels. I don’t want to insult anyone or say that a girl in a short skirt does not believe in God. But this place is hardly fanatically Christian. I look at what girls wear because our girls are dressed differently, more humbly. They rarely wear such heels without an occasion. That’s what impressed me.”
“Thank you people of Donbas for the jackass president” is a popular slogan launched as a chant by football fans in September 2011.