What will the Scotland match mean to Ukrainians?

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Martyn Chymera and his familyImage source, Martyn Chymera
Image caption,
Martyn Chymera with his wife Yuliya, son Anton and daughter Sofiya were at Ukraine's World Cup qualifier against France last September

When Scotland walk out at Hampden on Wednesday night, it may feel like the whole world is supporting their rivals.

Just three months after the Russian invasion, they will be playing Ukraine for the chance of a place in the World Cup in Qatar.

Whatever the result, it is likely to be an emotional match for supporters and players on both sides of the pitch.

Ukrainian fans have been telling BBC Scotland what the football match means to them.

'Goosebumps will be felt around the world'

Image source, Andriy Smondulak

Andriy Smondulak will be among those Ukrainians supporting their national side at Hampden Park on Wednesday.

He expects the occasion to be "extremely emotional" from the moment their national anthem is played.

"I think goose bumps will be felt around the world," he told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme. "Ukrainians in the stadium will be singing their hearts out."

"I think Hampden Park will temporarily feel like an opera house with so much emotion and drama, both on and off the pitch," he added.

The match will be Ukraine's first competitive fixture since the Russian invasion on 24 February.

The winners will face Wales in Cardiff on Sunday for a place in Qatar where they will be in a group with England, USA and Iran.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Ukraine's first match since the Russian invasion was a friendly against German Bundesliga club Borussia Monchengladbach earlier this month

Mr Smondulak said Wednesday's match was "immensely symbolic for us and immensely political as well".

"It is about showing the world that, despite the immense horrors of the war and the fact that Ukraine is defending itself against the second most powerful military in the world, miracles do happen," he added.

"We are praying for a very small miracle this Wednesday."

He hopes that the match - like Ukraine's Eurovision Song Contest win earlier this month - will provide some respite in his homeland.

He added: "It is only for a short period of 90 minutes during which people will forget about the horrors that have been inflicted on them.

"But, unfortunately, there will be no respite for the soldiers who I am sure will come under immense military pressure during the actual game."

'Everyone will be behind Ukraine'

Image source, Martyn Chymera

Martyn Chymera, who is travelling from Manchester for the match, believes the timing of the game is hugely significant.

He told Good Morning Scotland: "At the moment I think what is going on in Ukraine is going off the headlines so this again is an opportunity to remind people.

"Also it is an opportunity to stand up and sing our anthem and sing about the freedom of Ukraine, which is completely important at the minute while our men are fighting for their freedom."

Mr Chymera said football fans across the globe will be backing the away team.

"I think everybody will be sympathetic with Ukraine. We saw that recently in Eurovision, just a couple of weeks ago," he said.

"I am sure everyone, apart from Scotland, will be behind Ukraine on Wednesday."

A kilt and a Ukraine top?

Media caption,

Michael Kerr: 'My heart says Ukraine but my head says Scotland'

Meanwhile, Michael Kerr has split loyalties as his mother is Ukrainian but his father is Scottish.

He told BBC's The Sunday Show: "I am toying with wearing a kilt and a Ukraine top to show 50/50 but either way I am going to celebrate."

Mr Kerr, who is on the committee of an Edinburgh-based Ukraine social club, anticipates there will be tears during the national anthem.

But when the action gets under way he expects Steve Clarke's men to come out on top.

Mr Kerr said: "My heart says Ukraine because of the political situation but my head says Scotland have the best players and will edge it - plus home advantage as well.

"There's only about 200-300 of us in the away end so we are going to be drowned out on the day."

'Ukraine is still alive'

Last week Scotland captain Andy Robertson said Scotland must detach their sympathy for Ukraine from their own desire of getting to a World Cup finals for the first time since 1998.

The Liverpool left back told BBC Scotland: "Probably everyone in the world wants Ukraine to win.

"If it was any other country, I would probably want them to win but unfortunately they're playing against my country and we have to stand in their way."

Meanwhile, Manchester City defender Oleksandr Zinchenko said "it's not necessary to talk about motivation" for Ukraine as they bid to make their war-torn homeland proud.

He told told the BBC's World Football podcast: "Ukraine is still alive.

"Ukraine is going to fight until the end. This is our mentality. We never give up.

"I'm so grateful and so thankful for all the support around the world. Scotland are such a good team. They have unbelievable fans."

War in Ukraine: More coverage