Sheva double gives Ukraine back its self-esteem
By Richard Balmforth
KIEV (Reuters) - Many Ukrainians turned up groggily and late for work on Tuesday after a night's revelry and, for once, were forgiven by the boss. Some never showed up at all and they will probably get away with it too.
Some, even those usually unimpassioned by sport, dumped their usual daily outfit and turned up at the office in the national colors of blue and yellow.
Six minutes of soccer magic in which national hero Andriy Shevchenko scored twice to give his team a shock 2-1 victory over Sweden in their Euro 2012 opener achieved what Ukraine's troubled leadership has been striving to do for more than two years.
It unified the country in a burst of elation and gave Ukrainians back their self-esteem after relentless criticism in the West about what's gone wrong with their country.
"I'm not a great football fanatic. But I made a decision in the first half that if we won I'd wear my Ukrainian T-shirt to the office," said Lesya, a 27-year-old financial data provider, perched at her computer in an eye-catching blue and yellow top.
"For us it was history: the first time we had staged a competition like this and then to have this fantastic win in our first game," she said.
In raw soccer terms, the reaction from the thousands massed in four big fan zones around Ukraine was out of proportion to the significance of Monday's victory itself.
It was only Ukraine's first match in a month-long tournament involving the Europe's top teams. With further Group D games to come against France and England, they might still fail to qualify for the quarter-finals. Continued...