05/07/2022 - 09/07/2022


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U-12 European Baseball Championship 2022 - Official Payoff
"We can train in bomb shelters." With the U-12 coach Yevgenii Tkachenko about baseball in Ukraine
09/07/2022 3 Minute Read

"We can train in bomb shelters." With the U-12 coach Yevgenii Tkachenko about baseball in Ukraine

If you look at the team of Ukraine at the U-12 European Championship Qualifier in Vienna, you will spot only one man around the players. And still, despite the current conditions in Ukraine not in favour of any sports, Yevgenii Tkachenko picked up 18 players and together with his female coach assistant Viktoriia came to Austria with the goal of winning the tournament. Not for them. For the children, parents and coaches who could not come but mostly for the whole country of Ukraine.

How difficult was for your team to get to the tournament?

It was very difficult. We have players from the city of Mykolaiv which is occupied and bombarded by Russians right now. On the way to Vienna, we got stuck at the Polish borders in a queue of buses full of people who wanted to emigrate from Ukraine to Europe. We were waiting for about 10 hours there as the borders were closed.

It was also complicated with coaches because all the men aged 18 to 60 cannot travel abroad. Our baseball federation and our government were very kind and gave a permission to us to go to this tournament.

Kids are from different cities and from different countries because they are now refugees. So it was not easy for me to put this team together. Some kids are in occupied places, some of them are in Europe so it was really hard.

Can you even get those players from occupied places and from Europe to your team?

We have one player from the occupied area of Mykolaiv who moved from there at the beginning of the war. All his documents were left behind in the occupied area and had to be delivered by post to him. Otherwise he would not get the chance to escape from there and come to the tournament. Then we have four Ukrainian players who are currently living in Europe.

Did you have any chance to prepare for the tournament?

One month before the championship we had a training camp. We stayed in houses and bomb shelters. Kids were very happy and brave because despite all the current conditions in Ukraine with sirens, bombarding and all those noises around, they still wanted to come together and practice because they wanted to play the tournament. So we did not have much chances for preparation, only those six days but we are very grateful that WBSC, WBSC Europe and Austrian Baseball Softball Federation made it possible for us to participate. Both Ukrainian delegation and federation are very thankful for that.

It was 26 athletes and 4 coaches from Kiev, Mykolaiv, Rivne and Kropyvnytskyi. Kids were so happy that they could do something – play baseball, meet new friends and spend time together. They were very excited and grateful for the chance to go to Austria.

What is the life for them in Ukraine nowadays? Do they go to school?

They do not go to school, they have online homeschooling.

And what about baseball during the war? Do the clubs have any training sessions?

Clubs in big cities like Kiev have practices near bomb shelters because it is dangerous to be in the open spaces. In case they hear sirens, they need to go fast to the bomb shelter. We also heard sirens while training and had to hide ourselves. Kids were brave, they felt safe with coaches. After four months of a war, it is kind of a normality for us.

What do you do in a bomb shelter?

The war started in winter so we equipped the bomb shelters with batting cages and pitching mounds. We can normally practice inside, it is like a gym.

How do parents feel about sending their children to the training camp in Ukraine?

They of course know and understand very well that it is risky and a bomb attack can come anytime. We do our best to be in a frequent phone connection with parents and we follow all war rules, like immediate hiding in a bomb shelter after sirens came out loud.

Were there any players who could not come because parents were afraid?

One family from eastern part of our country did not allow their boy to come. We also have some players who are now as refugees in Europe and they were not invited to the national team by us as they do not play baseball in their current situation.  

I would also like to say that parents are also very grateful to WBSC, WBSC Europe and ABF. We are here only thanks to your support. As we do not have normal jobs in Ukraine now, it is very expensive for parents to pay for the trip, they would not be able to afford it because they have no money now. We know that Europe is doing a lot, people are very kind and allowed our kids to come. As a coach of these kids, I want to deeply thank to everyone.

What is your ambition here at the tournament?

It is of course to win the tournament. It is not important for me. It is important for parents, our country and our children. Fathers of these kids are soldiers and one of the coaches is in a war at this moment. We need to win for the Ukrainian citizens.

Thank you for the interview.

Interview by Lucie Zawada