For Andriy Shevchenko, this could be the end of his playing career for his nation. However, 45,870,700 people (Source: World Bank), the population of the Ukraine, hope that it won’t end with him watching his teammates from the sidelines in their last EURO 2012 soccer match of the group stage.
The Ukrainian team plays today in Donetsk at home against England in what will be a must-win game in reaching their goal of making the knockout round. However, Andriy Shevchenko is ailing from a knee injury he suffered in their previous game against France, and there’s a 50% chance he’ll play. Shevchenko is their captain, their leader, and Ukraine’s all time international scorer. So without him, the Ukrainian team has a huge hole in their lineup.
Nearly every country, big or small, has a sporting hero that outshines politicians, actors, etc. In India, that person is cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, who’s worshipped like a God. There is literally a popular saying in cricket that goes like, “If cricket is my religion, Sachin is my God”.
I’m assuming that Shevchenko isn’t worshipped like Tendulkar is in India, but he’s obviously very popular as the captain of the football (soccer) team today in his home country.
While Andriy hasn’t come out and said this would be his last match for the “Zhovto-Blakytni” (the Yellow-Blues), there have been plenty of speculation about the 35-year old’s retirement from the game after this tournament, not to mention the perfect Disney-esque ending with him performing well at home, and prancing off into the sunset.
Sadly, it looks like that won’t quite happen. Shevchenko had a very strong game against Sweden in their opening match, scoring two goals to lead the Ukraine to 3 points, but struggled against France, and added injury to insult.
In Donetsk today, thousands of people will be cheering on their footballing hero, and hoping that both Shevchenko and the Ukrainian national team prevail against the English.