For the vast majority of us, certainly in Europe and the western world, war is a very foreign concept. It’s something we haven’t seen for three or four generations now. World War II was something my late grandparents had to deal with.
We’ve had revolutions, some violent (my parents lived through the Prague Spring of 1968), some less so (the Fall of Communism in 1989 was largely peaceful: a Velvet Revolution, if you will), some not at all (I was still fairly young when the Velvet Divorce happened, and it was just a big party). Unlike in Czechoslovakia, the dissolution of Yugoslavia was far from peaceful, but those conflicts in the ‘90s were largely self-contained even if there were mass civilian casualties and unspeakable atrocities committed and plenty of military might on display from foreign powers, including the USA.
War is something that happens outside of Europe.
Or at least war was something that used to happen outside of Europe.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, and war has come back to Europe.
Strange days, to say the least, especially as we’re still just emerging from a two-year global pandemic, which is something we haven’t had to deal with for a century. From football in a time of pandemic, to football in a time of war. Strange days indeed.
To say that it’s a distraction ahead of Sunday’s League Cup final would be a callous understatement, and fortunately that’s not something Thomas Tuchel engaged in when asked his thoughts in yesterday’s press conference.
“The situation is too big. It’s not an isolated situation somewhere, it concerns Europe, it’s in Europe, and we are part of Europe. We can’t say, ‘let’s put this to the side’. It’s the opposite, we have to live with it right now. There is no running away from it, there is no shutting the doors and we focus on football.
“We are still privileged to live in peace and freedom right here where we are right now. We are privileged to have a game of football in an emotional but peaceful environment with fans in the stadium. We are very, very privileged. It’s a hardcore reality check right now, how privileged we are. I don’t think this will go away. My mind is clouded and it will for nobody go away because the issue is too big.”
It’s a very minor concern in the grand scheme of things, but the war does affect Chelsea slightly more than most of the rest of football thanks to our ownership situation. Roman Abramovich is facing potential sanctions due to his (prior, at least) connections with Vladimir Putin, and while none of us really know any of the pertinent details of that relationship and history, it’s something that might have a massive impact on our football club going forward.
Tuchel also did not shy away from addressing that sensitive subject, acknowledging that it is indeed something that’s potentially a concern but something we don’t really have any control over.
“There are so many uncertainties around the situation of our club and of the situation in the UK [but] we have maybe not so much insight and inside information than you might think.”
“To a certain degree, I can understand the opinions and the critical opinions towards the club and towards us who, in the end, represent the club. I understand and we can’t fully free ourselves from it. [But] maybe people also understand that me as a coach, players as players, we don’t have the insight as to what is really going on.”
What we do have control over is the football itself, so we have to try to focus on that, as trite as that may be in a time like this.
“In the very end — and don’t understand me wrong – I think it’s also the right from the team and from the staff, and include myself, to be maybe not political, to do sports and to focus on sports. Not because we are hiding, the situation is clear: it’s horrible and there’s no doubt about it [...] we feel it’s horrible and there is not a doubt about that. War in Europe was unthinkable for me and for a long period of time.
“Let’s wait. The impact is clear and the discussions have an impact. So let’s be patient and understand what the measurements will be and then we have to, maybe, deal with it and adapt.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Whether we win on Sunday or lose, whether we add the League Cup to our trophy cabinet and make it the latest or the last trophy of this era, it’s almost irrelevant.
Yet, it’s also even more important than before, in a way.
Sports can be a respite in certain situations. Focusing on something other than the doom and gloom and the troubles of the world can be helpful, if only for a brief time.
Michael Parkinson, the long-time talkshow host and presenter on British television summed it up best, when talking about the importance of sports in one of my favorites quotes on this topic.
“It is not war, or death, or famine – it’s not that at all. It’s the opposite of that. It’s to persuade us of a life outside of that … that’s why sport’s important.”