We roamed the center of Kyiv to learn about people’s moods ahead of the World Cup playoff away fixture between Ukraine and Scotland.
With only a day left until the kickoff of the year for National Team Ukraine, which will play Scotland in Glasgow on June 1, we decided to find out what Kyivans felt ahead of the match and whether they were going to watch it at all.
Ukraine continues to defend its land from Russian invasion. Kyiv has withstood the blow but never stopped upping defenses for a potential onslaught in the future. It’s unusually empty at the Valery Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium. In fact, there’s no ow there at the moment. A monument to a great coach decorates the area by the main gate. This time, someone put flowers in Lobanovsky’s hands, with the manager’s gaze focused on the club shop nearby.
“It’s not about football at all now. To be honest, this year, for the first time in my life, I skipped the Champions League final. All my thoughts are with our frontline defenders. I will try to watch the national team. I’ll watch it at home. Of course, I will keep the lights off, making myself a sort of a theater,” said a lone consultant of the Dynamo brand store.
It started raining in the capital. We walked downhill, to the Ukrainian House to the sound of a downpour. Not far from the site, many small Ukrainian flags were inserted into the lawn. “Insert a flag if your friend was killed by Putin,” a poster called. The whole place has become blue and yellow…
After passing the “Czech hedgehogs” in Maidan Square, we moved to Khreshchatyk. Hundreds of civilians and dozens of soldiers were walking down the street in the rain. While the former were not too willing to talk because of the psychological barrier against the background of the war, the military simply had no time for a chat. All of them (we approached at least 30 people) are either not interested in football, or simply ignore everything that is not related to the security of the capital. The military did not appreciate the attempt to photograph the barricades in the center of Kyiv. “Don’t fool around, just go watch the news,” they told us coldly, and they did have a point.
Then, called up by a teen blond guy, we went to check out the exhibition of burnt Russian military equipment in St. Michael’s Square. He walked, blunting his leg and humming a song under his breath. In the middle of “Oh, in the meadow a red viburnum” the boy reached the Russian scrap and shouted to us: “We are waiting for victories: we’ve already got one at Eurovision, we’re in the process of winning over Russia, and as for Scotland – I want this victory, too, although now nothing is about football.”
It was crowded though in Kyiv’s safest place. Metro subway restricted its schedule so trains now run at 15-min intervals. As a result, it’s rather crowded down there, which is quite a rare sighting, even after Champions League matches played in Kyiv.
There’s no one outside the Olympiyskyi Arena. It’s fully deserted. In Kyiv, football has been put on hold. The situation is the same in local pubs. The game starts at 9:45 pm Kyiv time, 75 minutes before the curfew kicks in. Due to this fact, there is no need to explain anything about the prevailing atmosphere. All pubs shut down at 9 sharp.
“The atmosphere here used to be similar to the one at Wembley. People would be fussing, cheering, and chanting football songs. You’ll never walk alone was often sung, too. But now it’s absolute silence that reigns, no matter what match is broadcast, everyone will watch Scotland-Ukraine at home,” said a bartender of one of the Kyiv bars.
Kyiv’s mood corresponds to the weather: restrained and gloomy. People are talking football sotto voce: everyone just wants Ukraine to win the war.