In September his team defeated Real Madrid, now he goes to war
Yuriy Vernydub is a football coach. With his club Sheriff Tiraspol, he even inspired at European level this season. But the war in his native Ukraine changed everything. At 56, Vernydub switched from the coaching bench to the front.
EYuriy Vernydub was actually supposed to take care of his team in the top game of the Divizia Nationala, the first football league in Moldova, tonight. But Sheriff Tiraspol’s coach was absent from the dugout against Milsami Orhei. A more important task awaits Vernydub. He wants to go to war for his homeland.
“I’ve lived my life. My team is playing today but they know I won’t be there. I’m in the army now. I don’t know where we’re going to be sent to fight,” the 56-year-old football coach was quoted as saying by the Ukrainian sports media “Zorya Londonsk”.
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Born in Ukraine, Vernydub maintains close ties to the state struggling to survive after the Russian army invaded. In addition, Vernydub’s employer, Tiraspol, is based in Transnistria. The region in eastern Moldova is an internationally unrecognized de facto regime, exclusively backed by Russia.
Whether Transnistria or Sheriff Tiraspol, both names are probably only known to Southeast Europe experts. Vernydub and his team surprised a football giant in the group stage of the Champions League. After the underdogs defeated Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0, Sheriff also brought the great Real Madrid to their knees. Sébastien Thill scored the winning goal to make it 2-1 in the final minute.
A few days ago in the Europa League
As third in the table, Tiraspol was allowed to compete in the Europa League. Just last Thursday, Vernydub saw his side lose on penalties in the second leg against Portuguese side Sporting Braga.
A few days later, another football miracle with Tiraspol for Vernydub has receded into the distant future. After the elimination against Braga, “Zorya Londonsk” shared a photo showing the soccer coach next to two other men in uniform. “Sheriff Tiraspol’s trainer Yuriy Vernydub is ready! He defeated Real Madrid in the autumn. Now he is also involved in territorial defense,” wrote the sports portal on Twitter.
Vernydub, whose playing career at Zenit St Petersburg ended after three seasons and a cup win, appears determined to defend his homeland against the Russian army.
A depressing situation for Gustavo Dulanto. When asked about his coach’s life-threatening mission, Tiraspol’s captain said: “May God protect my Yuri, who went to Ukraine.”