Academy Coach Sergei Baltacha urges Charlton fans to support the people of Ukraine

Academy Coach Sergei Baltacha has asked Charlton fans to support the people of Ukraine, his home nation.

Baltacha, who has been an important cog of the Addicks' esteemed academy for 18 years, wants to do his part to help his nation, his friends and family.

He said: “In the last seven days I’ve been sleeping next to the TV. I wake up at every hour - three o’clock, four o’clock, five o’clock in the morning - to look at the news and see what has happened.

“I am talking with my family, my brother in Kyiv. Him and his wife are 67 years old, he doesn't want to leave Kyiv, he wants to face the people if they are coming to kill. If they want to fight, he will fight back. He’s ready. His youngest daughter is away in west Kyiv. A lot of my friends who used to play with me, ex-professional players, are in Kyiv. Some of them have taken guns so they are ready to fight as well. Every time I call my brother he is giving me so much encouragement, I can’t believe it. He says, ‘don’t worry, it’s going to be okay. If we need to fight we will, we are not going to give up’. I’m very proud of these people.

“It’s emotional. Honestly, I am breaking down when I start to talk about Ukraine and its people. It’s difficult and it’s very emotional. I can’t imagine how tough it is over there. My brother and my friends show me so much encouragement, I can’t believe it. Their bravery is unbelievable.”

Born in Mariupol, Baltacha, who is now 64, played 245 games for Dynamo Kyiv before signing for Ipswich Town in 1988. He played 45 games for the Soviet Union and is in touch with many friends and former teammates who still live in the Ukraine. 

He explained: “I came over to England with my family for two years but still we’re here. We’re British citizens, we love this country, we love the people and my kids and grandkids have grown up here now. Ukraine is another country of very good people. In 1990, Ukraine became independent and this is what the people are now fighting for. They are fighting for freedom, to be part of European society. We had maybe a good relationship with Russia; I have Russian blood because my grandad was Russian. In Russia, Ukraine is like half-Russian, half-Ukrainian. It’s painful not only for Ukrainian people, it’s painful for Russian people to see. It’s not about people; it’s about the government, it’s about the Kremlin, it’s about Putin.”

For Baltacha, turning up at Charlton’s Sparrows Lane training ground and getting on with his job has provided some light during a very difficult and emotional time.

He said: “The club has helped me; Steve Avory has told me if I need a couple of days off to take it, but I feel this is light in my tunnel to work here. I can see how helpful the people around me in this club are and I very much appreciate it.”

Find out more about how you can support Ukraine by clicking here.

Baltacha explained: “I’m really sleepless. You’re trying to help somehow to support this. One way for Charlton supporters to help is financially. In my opinion, Ukraine is fighting not only for Ukraine’s freedom but for everybody’s freedom because Putin is a very dangerous guy. This is an opportunity for us to help them.”

There will be a period of reflection prior to kick-off at The Valley on Saturday afternoon as part of the 'Football Stands Together' campaign.

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