Ex-Roma boss Paulo Fonseca: We were in danger in Ukraine!


Former AS Roma manager Paulo Fonseca has detailed how his life came to be in danger after he was caught in the midst of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Portuguese tactician, who is currently unattached after leaving the Giallorossi in June last year, had cut short his holiday in the Maldives to go to Ukraine last week as his wife's family – she is Ukrainian – needed help to escape the Eastern European nation following Vladimir Putin's bid to take over the country by force.

However, their initial attempt to leave Kyiv was thwarted as missiles began hitting the capital, which led to a gridlock on the main roads, with Shakhtar Donetsk sporting director Darijo Srna then suggesting that Fonseca and his family take shelter in a bunker in a hotel in the city of Donetsk.

Having successfully exited the country since, Fonseca has now opened up about the daunting experience that had him fearing for his life.

"We didn't know what to do. Everyone was trying to leave Kyiv," the 48-year-old told Sky Sports.

"Darijo called me and said to come to the hotel owned by the president of Shakhtar.

"We moved to the hotel there, and stayed in a bunker there overnight, for one and a half days overall, with the Brazilian players from Shakhtar and the technical team.

"I started to think the situation was only going to get worse so we contacted the Portuguese embassy and they said tomorrow, we'll have a car and you can go.

"I decided to leave in the morning, the day after the car picked us up from the hotel and we started a long trip to the border. It was dangerous, we travelled all day and night without stopping.

"The journey was 30 hours, more including across the border with Moldova to where we were staying in Romania.

"I saw many times the troops of Ukraine pass on the road, we stopped and listened to the alarms, many times, and there was a lot of traffic. We spent a lot of time going 5kmph.

"During the trip, of course, we were in danger even driving in the night, and I heard the planes passing, but I didn't see shooting or fighting.

"We travelled with another family, a couple with a six-month-old baby.

"In the end we arrived on the border and felt safe, which was the most important thing."

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Fonseca, who is one of the most successful coaches in Shakhtar's history, also expressed concern for the safety of his former colleagues who are still in Ukraine.

"I'm in contact all the time with some of the people who worked with me at Shakhtar, they are trying to survive but it's difficult," he added.

"To leave the country now is almost impossible and I'm very worried for them. I would like to help them, so much, but I feel impotent to do that. We're very sad about the situation.

"I have to confess, during this time I haven't thought about football. This is so much more important than everything, and believe me, we are suffering a lot with the situation. These people, this country, doesn't deserve what is happening.

"But they are heroes, they are fighting, and it's really difficult for us to see the situation in Ukraine.

"This reality has shown me we have things much more important than football. I love my profession, I love football, but the life of the people is much more important.

"I would like so much to help them, but I'm feeling impotent to help. We're very sad with the situation."

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