Yarmolenko: I feel West Ham and its fans support Ukrainians

Andriy Yarmolenko expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the West Ham family and the football world after scoring a hugely emotional goal in Sunday’s 2-1 Premier League win over Aston Villa.

Making his first appearance since his homeland of Ukraine was invaded by Russia on 24 February, and since he made a mercy flight to Poland to bring his wife and child to the safety in England, Yarmolenko received a huge ovation from both sets of supporters at London Stadium as he entered as a substitute early in the second half.

Then, with 20 minutes to play, the Ukraine national-team captain collected a pass from Saïd Benrahma, span and fired an unerring left-foot shot past Emiliano Martínez to give his side the lead and set them on the way to a deserved victory.

What followed was an outpouring of feeling that left Yarmolenko in tears, hugs of support from his teammates and the forward applauding all four stands in response to the support he, his family and his country has received since the conflict began.

I give everything for the fans and everything for the Club and in this moment I feel like West Ham as a Club and its fans support Ukrainians
Andriy Yarmolenko

“What happened today was so emotional for me because of the situation in my country,” he confirmed. “It is so difficult for me right now thinking about football because every day in my country the Russian Army is killing Ukrainian people.

“It was so emotional is the one thing I can say because, to be honest, I don’t know what to say. It was just so, so emotional and I want to say ‘Thank you’ to my teammates who support me all the time, every day, and also want to say that to West Ham fans because they support me and support the Ukrainian people.

“I also want to say ‘Thank you’ to all British people because we feel you support us, so really ‘Thank you’.”

Yarmolenko was granted compassionate leave by manager David Moyes in the early days of the war, to both gather himself and then to take a flight to Poland to bring his family members to London, before returning to training at Rush Green.

“I felt support from the fans and I just tried to give everything on the pitch because I know how important the game was for us today,” he continued.

“I know I am not ready 100 per cent because the last two weeks I trained maybe like three or four times. Since 26 February, I rested for four days because for me it was impossible to train as I was just thinking about my family and my people and after two or three days I needed to rest again.

“I just tried to give everything on the pitch.”

Andriy Yarmolenko scores against Aston Villa

While he may not be at peak fitness, the 32-year-old’s class was there for all to see as he scored an outstanding and important goal for his team.

“Saïd gave me the ball in the box, you don’t have a lot of time,” he explained. “You just need to do everything really quick, so I did it quick enough and it was a goal.”

While the war in his home country and the incredible pain it is causing Yarmolenko and his compatriots goes on, the player and his family will continue to need support from his Club, his manager, his teammates and its supporters – and it is providing the forward with at least one small crumb of comfort that he can rely on that support totally.

“For me, it’s really important to feel support from the manager, from my teammates and from the fans,” he concluded.

“What I said before, when I feel it, I give everything for the fans and everything for the Club and in this moment I feel like West Ham as a Club and its fans support Ukrainians.”