The Beginning of Modern History in Europe
At 5 am on February 24, 2022, the Russian army invaded the territory of sovereign Ukraine. This was a fascist method of warfare that included the inhumane destruction of, not just property, but the lives of civilians – women and children, along with any other living thing in its path, alike. This act represents unquestionable facts which history will remember as the most cynical and inhumane attitude towards a once “brotherly” country. Undoubtedly, this is a genocide of the Ukrainian people. Europe, and the rest of the world, will never be the same again. A new world order is awaiting and is being formed in front of our very eyes.
The war certainly affected all spheres of human life. Ukrainian sport was no exception. Going through the not-good times in recent years, the war completely stopped all sports activities in the country. Athletes stopped training as some of them even went abroad for safety. Some well-known athletes like tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky, boxers Oleksandr Usyk and Vasily Lomachenko, and many others, joined the ranks of the territorial defense of their cities.
There were many athletes that wanted to join the cause. There are even more who want to but could not due to lack of combat experience. Weapons are not issued to everyone. People may only join the “local defense” with their gun, or without weapons at all (as the Ukrainian divers did – a further article on this will be released). For those who could not join the combat, they helped build checkpoints, strengthened defenses, volunteered, helped with humanitarian aid and much more. All these efforts are worthy of being written and shared in a series of future publications. In this article, we will talk about the situation Ukrainian basketball faced.
How is Ukrainian Basketball?
“This morning, the Russian Federation launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. We did not believe in it all to the last. But now, the war is a fact. War in Ukraine. In such a situation, we are all not up to the sport. And basketball in particular.” – morning publication on February 24 of the famous Ukrainian basketball analyst Oleksandr Proshuta.
The signs for this were already evident in early February when American basketball imports began to leave the location of their clubs in Ukraine. The leadership of the BC “PROMETEY” turned out to have a much better foresight as the team management took two teams abroad a week before the start of the conflict as if they knew something was going to happen. The men’s basketball team went to the Czech Republic and the women’s basketball team went to Bulgaria.
“They left on February 14, intending to return two weeks later. Everything looked as if the situation should stabilize before the beginning of March. And they thought so, but … In fact, they left to save their European Cup seasons and finish them as much as possible. The Prometheus women’s team succeeded – they played two matches in the quarterfinals of the Eurocup. Still, they fell to the tournament’s favorites and quickly flew out. The men played one match, after which the president of the club decided that it was better to spend the money on something else. In the end, having excellent chances for the Champions League playoffs, they decided to withdraw.” – Oleksandr Proshuta commented.
It is also worth noting that most foreign imports left Ukraine and the location of their clubs before February 20. However, some remained and were urgently evacuated between February 24 to 25. Thank God that all the foreign players were evacuated during the first few days of the war.
The Ukraine National Basketball Team
It is also important to mention that our team just played a match with the Spaniards on the day the war began. The national squad were able to represent Ukraine well but ultimately fell to the more experienced Spaniards (88-74). FIBA actually offered the national team not to play the match against Spain, taking into account emergency circumstances, but the team decided to play.
Most unlucky were the Ukrainians, who were not at the disposal of the national team in Spain. Many professional players have remained in Ukraine and are on standby, hoping to follow their colleagues to play in Europe as most of the national team players who did not return to Ukraine have already done. One of them is Yuriy Kondrakov, a player of BC “Budivelnik.” We asked Yuriy how he was doing and what his plans are.
Yura, how did the war affect you?
– In any case, this is stress and worries about what will happen next, where to run, where to live, what to do next. The war, of course, had a negative impact. But it is worth noting that it added a portion of motivation to move forward and that you always need to be ready for anything.
What are you doing now?
– Now I am with my wife, child, and mother at my brother’s in Lviv. I try to train as much as possible. I go to the base of the football club where my brother plays (Yura’s brother is Daniil Kondrakov, a professional football player of FC “RUH”). I try to keep fit in every possible way, and of course, I constantly read the news. So you can say that I have an average life of a refugee-athlete.
What is under the contract with the club? What does the club management say?
– No one can say certain things. There are no specifics. The management of our club reassures us. They promise to help.
How are your colleagues who managed to leave the border now? What are they saying?
– I think it’s better than those who are now in Ukraine. Many have already found clubs in Europe and have already played their first games. But I am sure they are no less worried about Ukraine than those who remained in the country.
What basketball future do you see for yourself?
– I hope the war ends as soon as possible. I’m not sure I will have time to sign somewhere this season and continue playing. So, morally, I set myself up more for the next season. I will try to get in the most optimal shape in the summer so that I will be completely ready to play in any European championship in the fall.
Slamdunk World Champion is on the line
We also had a chance to talk with the top dunker of Ukraine, two-time FIBA world champion Dmytro “SMOOVE” Krivenko.
Dmytro, how did the war affect you?
– The war, like everyone else, plunged into a shock from which it is impossible to move away. All plans collapsed at once. We had to separate from the family. A part went abroad and remained relatively safe, and interest is close to the fighting. Therefore, it is impossible to be distracted by something other than worrying about loved ones. I don’t even want to talk about sports. Naturally, life was divided into “before” and “after.” Now it’s just not even appropriate to talk about all this, but I can say that on March 2, I had to fly to India for a month, where I signed a contract in the 3×3 league. I am glad that I did not have time to leave because I could not experience all this from afar, away from my family.
What are you doing now?
– Now I’m trying to be as helpful as possible. We transport and send humanitarian aid to collect money for the needs of the victims. But this goes without saying. Now I am directing more efforts to use my international connections to help our migrants find a place to train and play basketball in different countries. Sports activity and return to more or less usual activities are essential for stabilizing the mental state of a child/adolescent. In general, I help as much as I can to not go crazy from what is happening.
When will you start posting again?
– When I start to publish something – it is hard to say. Basketball does not climb in any form now. I can’t watch highlights, let alone shoot on my own. When we win, then we will return to this matter.
What do you think will happen to the street culture and dunk movement in Ukraine after the war?
– I am sure that the culture will develop rapidly after the victory. Naturally, the unity of people and the help of foreign partners will help us in this.
What are your thoughts and plans?
– Thoughts and plans… The first plan – is to get together with my family in their kitchen, sit and talk, as before. Then, I want to see all my friends’ relatives. I hope that people will stop suffering and get a chance to resume everyday life. Then, when everything settles down, I will go to the cities of Ukraine to help raise the sports spirit. I had the idea to make a tour of Ukrainian schools before. After the victory, it will be simply necessary. I’m looking forward to this moment.
Basketball expert Oleksandr Proshuta gives his assessment of the basketball prospects in Ukraine.
“The basketball future of Ukraine entirely depends on the timing of the end of the war. Conventionally, suppose the war ends before the summer and ends without new global infrastructure destruction. In that case, we will have two to four months to reassemble the remnants of basketball and somehow start all the processes. Running processes is critical in this situation. Further, life, in the presence of peace and stabilization of the economic crisis, will regulate everything by itself. And if the situation in Ukraine is stable, we will gradually begin to regain our positions.
What will it look like? Most likely, a very limited championship for 6-8 teams, in which 90-95% of local players will play, who for some reason will not be able to find a job in Europe. Most likely, it will be a mix of veterans and very fresh youth, with no previous experience of playing in the Super League, who will get a great chance to show themselves.
All other status Ukrainian players will go abroad. The situation of 2014-2016 will repeat itself, only on an even larger scale. If then 60% of strong Ukrainians left, now absolutely everyone will go. Who can and who will be in demand.
This will continue for a year or two, after which, if the situation and the economy stabilize, they will gradually begin to return.
It took us 5-6 years to restore the level during the previous crisis. Now, suppose the situation develops well, in my opinion. In that case, it will take less time, 3-4 years – there is the experience of what and how to return to an acceptable level relatively quickly.
However, nothing of high quality awaits us in the first year or two. At the same time, it’s generally good if basketball is restarted, at least in this format.
If the war comes out in a distant time frame, there can be no talk of any basketball. It is already at least possible to assemble a national team for participation in the European Championship … But I don’t want to think about it now.”
Everything will be UKRAINE!
This is the situation of basketball in Ukraine in the first three weeks after the start of the war. We believe that Ukraine will definitely win the war, and basketball will return to the sports map of Ukraine as soon as possible. Peace for everyone.
Edited by Aldo Tong