Andriy Shevchenko has just finished the interview but he wants to keep talking. “You have to keep talking about Ukraine,” he says. “When you go there, it breaks your heart.”
Shevchenko is looking down at a complex of football pitches where groups of teenagers are warming up for the day’s matches. They have flown from around the world to compete in the Gatorade 5v5 Global Finals in Istanbul, the final phase of a grassroots tournament for boys and girls aged 14 to 16.
After a meet and greet session with Shevchenko, the youngsters represent their country while competing for the trophy and for tickets to the UEFA Champions League final. Past winners of Gatorade 5v5 have gone on to build successful professional football careers, and some have even represented their country at major football tournaments.
Shevchenko is reminded of the youth football tournaments he played in Ukraine on the way to becoming a professional and winning major trophies in his home country, Italy and England as well as lifting the Champions League in 2003.
But organised sport in Ukraine has been brutally disrupted along with all semblance of normal life since the invasion by Russia last year. Shevchenko knows the power of football and how important it is for people to play and, just for a moment, to escape the horrors of war.