Blokhin: There is no racism in Ukrainian football
The co-hosts` coach is adamant that any racial issues are related to politics rather than sport, claiming if such fears were true the country would not have been awarded Euro 2012, according to Goal.com.
Ukraine head coach Oleg Blokhin has defended Ukrainian football from the bad publicity surrounding it, claiming there is no football-related racism in the country.
In the buildup to Euro 2012, much focus has been centred on the potential for racism in the host nations Poland and Ukraine, with the families of several England footballers deciding not to attend the tournament due to these fears.
However, Blokhin believes racism in the country is not related to football, but politics instead, despite BBC‘s Panorama showing football of Ukrainian football fans attacking Asian people in the stands at a football match.
"There is no racism in Ukraine,” he claimed. “Not connected with football. It is a political thing, and if there were real troubles in football we would not have the tournament here.”
Blokhin’s side faces Sweden in its opening match of the tournament on Monday night, and he is expecting a tough match against opposition who are not easy to beat.
"Like a good horse, we are ready for the start,” he said. “It is my job to calm the players down because they can`t wait to get started. Sweden have a very good team, with a very good starting line-up and they rarely change the starting lineup. It will be a tough game and we will see if it will be an open game or a tight one.
"It will be a tough battle. I don`t want to get into politics or talk of armies, I just want it to be a good game.”
The former Soviet Union and Dynamo Kiev striker also declared he knows exactly what his starting lineup will be, adding that the current Ukraine side revolves around younger players.
He continued: "I`ve already chosen my starting lineup. Our team has changed a lot it recent years, with some younger players coming through.
“The difficult bit was finding a balance. I think tomorrow you will see two very good teams, but my team is more attacking and we hope to force them to defend. The first game is very hard and the Ukrainian league is very tough, so maybe Sweden has a little advantage.”
The 59-year-old went on to speak about Ukraine’s opponents on Monday night, highlighting the importance of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and he believes the Swedish attack will be built around the AC Milan forward.
"From the XI that played Sweden last time there are only four players left in the team and they played without Ibrahimovic. The play of Ibra [Ibrahimovic] depends on [Johan] Elmander, so if Elmander doesn`t play Ibra is the only striker. We understand their way of playing, but we must concentrate on our own game and anyone who says we are outsiders is wrong. I will never call us outsiders.
"Sweden have Kallstrom and Elmander, they have two good centre backs, good midfielders, good full backs. If we make mistakes, we will lose. Saying Ibra is the only player is a big mistake. He is a great player, but they are a good team.
"In training the players are joking, but they concentrate on their own games. Sheva [Andriy Shevchenko] and [Anatoliy] Tymoshchuk do not seem nervous to me. We have a chance, everyone does, this is the European Championship. The Dutch lost to Denmark yesterday. But we all have three games. I don`t think we should pay too much attention to the result of France and England.”
The coach spoke about his daughter too, who is a TV personality in Ukraine, but he doesn’t believe that who her father is has any bearing.
"Everyone has their own job,” he said. “I have a lot to learn as a coach and she has a lot to learn as a TV host. I don`t think it matters if her name is Blokhin.”
Blokhin himself caused controversy in 2006 when he spoke about foreigners playing in Ukraine’s Premier League, riddling his opinion with racist undertones.
Speaking to The New York Times, he said: “Let them learn from Andriy Shevchenko or Blokhin, and not some `Zumba-Bumba` whom they took off a tree, gave him two bananas and now he plays in the Ukrainian League.
“I remember when I played, if we lost a game it was not easy to walk the streets. There were a great many friends out there who could beat you up for that. But is there any sense in beating up a foreigner? Okay, you beat him up – next thing he does is pack up and go.”