A battlefield break to cheer Ukraine’s soccer team in Euro 2024

FILE — Ukrainian service members from the 13th Operational Brigade of the National Guard of Ukraine "Khartiia" watch the Euro Championships Football first round game between Ukraine and Romania, in an undisclosed location near a front line in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on Monday, June 17, 2024. Soldiers huddled in a bunker with soft drinks and chips to watch Ukraine face Romania, only to suffer heartbreak; Romania won, 3-0. [Daniel Berehulak/The New York Times]

KYIV, Ukraine - They had won one battle and then sat to watch a battle of a different kind. Eight Ukrainian national guard soldiers who had helped stall a Russian offensive in the northern Kharkiv region of Ukraine took the afternoon off Monday to watch the men's national soccer team play its first game of the European Championship.

"Football unites - it gives adrenaline and motivates," said Evhen, 34, a soldier in the 13th National Guard Brigade who asked to be identified by only his first name, in accordance with military protocol.

The soldiers huddled in a bunker with soft drinks and chips to watch Ukraine play Romania in Munich, only to suffer heartbreak when their team lost 3-0. But like most Ukrainians, they nonetheless take special pride in their sports team during the war.

"We have one team on the field and a million on the front," said Andriy...

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