England players in awe of Oleksandr Zinchenko amid the war in Ukraine
‘I can only admire what he’s done’: England stars John Stones and Bukayo Saka admit they’re in awe of Oleksandr Zinchenko and his response to Ukraine’s struggles as he prepares to face his Arsenal and ex-Man City team-mates at Wembley
- England stars praise Oleksandr Zinchenko for his strength amid war in Ukraine
- John Stones and Bukayo Saka both in awe of their Ukrainian teammate
- The Three Lions meet Ukraine in their Euro 2024 qualifier on Sunday evening
England players taking on Ukraine at 5pm on Sunday on Channel 4 are well versed in the struggles of that nation, not simply because the invasion of Russia is daily in the news but also because many of them have a personal connection in Oleksandr Zinchenko.
John Stones, Kyle Walker, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish all know him well from his time at Manchester City and Bukayo Saka and Aaron Ramsdale are now Arsenal team-mates. As such, they are aware of the enormity of the situation and the personal cost to Ukrainians.
Stones recalls the day of the invasion last year and the trauma that news brought for Zinchenko. ‘He is usually such a bubbly person, really happy,’ said Stones.
‘He wasn’t himself at all, he was very sad. It shocked us as a team. I never thought I would see this happen and I was upset for Zinner, definitely.
‘We were trying to speak to him and get him to kind of vent his feelings. He was always looking for what his family were doing that are still there and how he could help. And also spreading the word of how we could help people. It was a really difficult time, especially for him.
The England players in awe of Ukraine’s Oleksandr Zinchenko and how he’s dealt with the war
Former Man City team-mate John Stones (centre) has spoke of how the war affected Zinchenko and the support he received
Stones praised the Ukrainian’s mental strength in dealing with the horrors of the war
I know he was out there on the streets in Manchester with a lot of his fellow countrymen that he could be with and support at that time. And that is great credit to him and his wife.
‘I have a lot of love for him and a lot of respect. But I don’t think we can ever put ourselves in that situation until we have lived it, which I hope we never have to. I can only admire what he has done and respect everything he has gone through, him and his family. How he has gone through his day to day job, and his daily life.’
Football rallied as best it could, with fans displaying Ukraine flags and messages of support. ‘I think people appreciate what people are going through, showing their hearts,’ said Stones.
‘Putting their club and love for their team and their support to one side for that moment and recognising there is bigger things than football. That was obviously and still is, Ukraine at this moment.
‘I can’t imagine what he went through to be fair and for him to go through it seamlessly and like you said win another title [with City] is huge credit to him and his whole support team, his wife, his mental strength and everything. I think he will probably have wanted to do that for them, succeed and not kind of let it get him down or stop him from achieving his goal.’
Zinchenko is now on course for a fifth Premier League winners’ medal in his short career, having moved to Arsenal, now eight points clear at the top of the table. And Saka says that Zinchenko has made a huge difference to the dressing room in their title chase.
‘He’s brought quality, he’s brought so much,’ Saka said. ‘You can see how he plays and how he controls game. He’s an outstanding player. He’s not only a quality player, he has outstanding leadership qualities. He’s helping us on both fronts.
Zinchenko has been a big hit at The Emirates and is on course to land another title medal
Saka says that Zinchenko has bought a winning mentality to the club since joining Arsenal
‘He’s got a bit of fire about him and he uses it in ways that help him. On the pitch he uses it to get him going and to win the duels. He also has that other side to him, the balance in his head he needs to play well.’
Zinchenko joined from City with Gabriel Jesus, who also has four Premier League titles to his name, and Saka said:
‘They have brought that winning mentality to us as players who have been there and won the league. In difficult moments they know how it feels, they can encourage us, because we have a lot of young players. They help us with the mental side.
‘No one can ever understand what he is going through. He’s a man of incredible mental strength. To be able to get his mind on the game when he is playing for Arsenal and for his country, and to perform that well, is a big credit to him.’