Seven players have been nominated by their unions for the 2023 FIFPRO Merit Awards. FIFPRO will announce the winners in the three different categories – Activism, Impact and Voice – during its annual general assembly in South Africa on Thursday 23 November.
Arsenal and Ukraine left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko is one of the nominees. The 26-year-old has been vocal in his support for Ukraine, joining United24 as an ambassador and raising both funds and awareness for his home country.
By Oleksandr Zinchenko
There is not one Ukrainian, anywhere in the world, who is unaffected by this war, and who wouldn’t do anything within their power to help the country during this terrible time.
My family and I are trying to do all we can to show our support, whether that’s through sending money, clothing, or anything else people might need, or even helping Ukrainian refugees who have fled to the UK in search of safety.
As a footballer, I have opportunities available to help and a platform to speak. I have a duty to use my voice to speak out about what is happening in my country.
Football brings so much to so many people around the world, and there are many who look up to players as role models. I want to use this position to send a message to everyone that I can reach and raise awareness, funds for the people of Ukraine.
I was so happy when Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine’s all-time top scorer and former head coach, told me that there was the opportunity to join him as an ambassador for United24, an organisation that connects people from all around the world in their efforts to help Ukraine.
From the beginning of the Russian invasion, I have wanted to do everything I possibly could to reach out to the people of Ukraine and help others to do the same. This was an opportunity to achieve that on a much greater scale.
Our first project was the Game4Ukraine, which took place in August this year at Stamford Bridge, featuring footballers and celebrities from all over the world who came together to raise funds for the restoration of the Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky Lyceum, a school in Chernihiv Oblast which was destroyed in March.
We saw the damage when we went back to visit Ukraine. It was amazing to make a tangible difference to the lives of the 415 children that can now return to their studies thanks to the funds raised by Game4Ukraine.
I am proud to have played my part in that, and of the people who worked tirelessly behind the scenes for the nine months in the lead-up to deliver not only a successful fundraiser, but an incredible show of support for the people of Ukraine.
It's painful to be so far away from my country right now, knowing how difficult life every day is for those who live there. But I know that where I am now is the best place that I can be to help them.
I will continue to talk to my followers, the press, and the rest of the world to raise awareness of the suffering that is taking place back home, and returning whenever I can to offer humanitarian help. My family and I made this decision years ago, when the first invasion happened in 2014, that we would do everything in our power to help our country. It’s never been more critical than now to do so.
I might not live there today, but Ukraine is my home. Once my football career is over, it is where I plan to retire and spend the rest of my life. I've always been so proud to be Ukrainian, but especially so now because in the toughest period of our fight for independence, we are showing people just how strong we are – as a people, as a country.
Football is a sport which is loved by so many around the world. It has created a connection, an international language between all those who follow it. As footballers, we have an opportunity to use this language to reach out and be heard. It has the potential to achieve a lot of good in the world.
I use my voice for Ukraine and I will continue to do so in any way that I can. I hope that others also choose to speak out about what is happening in their own corners of the world. If you are given even a small chance to make this world a better place, then you have the responsibility to use it – in football, and in everything else.