“We put our hearts into this ballpark, how was I going to walk away and just drop everything?”

in it Mykolaiv Football Stadium There is a calendar with the dates underlined in orange. It is the Ukrainian league matches that have never been played. Volodymyr KossThe stadium manager runs his index finger through the days until he reaches today’s date. sobs. Every day of war is one day less of life.

Cosé was one of those soccer players from the days of the Soviet Union. He played for FC Salyut Belgorod, CSKA and Lokomotiv Moscow. He even scored a goal against the United States in 1994. “The goal of honor is to equalise,” he recalls. Today he walks around the field, but in a different way. Despite the war, he decides to stay in Ukraine to guard a football field where no one plays.

When Mykolaiv became a city on the war front, he did not hesitate. Moldova decided to stay and Turn this playground into your very own moat. “Everyone has the right to leave or to stay,” he says. War does something strange to men, and he finds his purpose in tending a soccer field.

Shots ring out. Bombs fall. The troops are advancing. But the routine is always the same. watering the field. mowing. Take care of your home. It’s quite an achievement in a city that now has only salt water in its pipes.

Take care of the playground as if it were your home

The green of the field contrasts with the huge crater that cuts through the athletics tracks that surround the stadium. During the Russian bombing, several missiles hit the facility, damaging the stands and the building through which dignitaries watched the match in peacetime. “The explosion destroyed everything,” Koss laments as he tries to repair the small damage he found.

He takes care of her as if she were his home. And even the Ukrainian army could not dislodge him When he needed the facilities during the worst of the conflict. He put only one condition on them: «I told them I would leave only if they took an interest in the field. They told me they wouldn’t do it, so I refused.”

The conversation was interrupted by the sound of artillery. “They are ours,” he says as the rest of us look at each other and listen to the silence waiting for the next cannon shot. The smile continued until a machine gun sound appeared. “It’s weird”. We asked him if he planned to keep guarding the camp for a while longer. He flicks his coat slightly and replies, “We put our hearts into this ballpark. How was I going to go and leave it all?

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