WARSAW (Reuters) - Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk players have helped pay for fans from the war-affected region of eastern Ukraine to attend Wednesday’s Europa League final against Sevilla, said captain Ruslan Rotan.
Dnipropetrovsk, an industrial city with a population of fewer than one million, has avoided being drawn into the conflict with Russian-backed rebels that has killed more than 6,200 people in just over a year.
With fighting raging on their doorstep, the club have been prevented from hosting matches in the competition and have had to travel 500 kilometers (310 miles) to play home games in the capital Kiev, often at near-empty stadiums.
Having scrapped their way through to the final, the squad have been keen to get as many of their supporters to Warsaw as they can.
“From the economic point of view, not all the fans can get to this historic game. We have helped them, given them gifts so they would be able to get here,” Rotan told a news conference at Warsaw’s National Stadium on the eve of the final.
“Perhaps it is difficult to count (how many) we have helped financially, we have paid for some tickets, transportation, whatever we could do, we did. We wanted to give them some positive emotions.”
Dnipro have won respect but few admirers from outside Ukraine, having claimed only six wins since the start of the group stage, losing four times and scoring 13 goals.
But while exciting, attacking football may have been in short supply in their run to the final, Dnipro’s players hope they can conjure an unexpected victory that would lift some of the gloom at home.
“Football is a holiday for the people and here the most important thing is the trophy, positive emotions,” Rotan added.
“What is happening in Ukraine, because there is a war in the east, people are deprived of emotions. There is chaos but if we win we will give joy to some people.”
Editing by Tony Jimenez