BERLIN (AP) — Hertha Berlin’s new coach Sandro Schwarz says he has struggled daily with the decision to stay working in Moscow following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Schwarz, who was hired by Hertha on Thursday, remained coach of Dynamo Moscow until the team had played in the Russian Cup final last Sunday.
The German coach’s stance stood in contrast to those taken by compatriots Markus Gisdol and Daniel Farke, who left Lokomotiv Moscow and FC Krasnodar respectively after Russia started its war.
But Schwarz defended his decision to stay in the Russian capital.
“It was important to me, after seeing these terrible pictures (from Ukraine), to learn how my fellow humans felt from all the talks we kept having. What came from that was the decision as a group to keep on this very, very difficult path,” Schwarz said Friday.
“We had countless emotional moments with Ukrainian players, Russian players, with me in the coach’s room, two or three of us all crying, deeply affected by the situation in Ukraine.”
Schwarz took over the Russian team last October and described his time in charge as “very turbulent” and “intensive” even before Feb. 24. The invasion reached its 100th day on Friday, when Schwarz was speaking to journalists for the first time since his appointment by Hertha.
“I also had this inner turmoil, on one hand as a person seeing these terrible images and, on the other, knowing from these talks how my players tick, how my country ticks, how the authorities tick,” Schwarz said.
The 43-year-old said he “completely condemned this war of aggression” and that the people he was working with at Dynamo were “good people. They also have a clear attitude, like all of us here, on the subject.”
He said he stayed at the Moscow club “solely to help the people there, while knowing that what’s happening in Ukraine is the worst thing ever.”
Schwarz said some of the younger Russian players feared being conscripted to go and fight in Ukraine.
“I know that I was a very, very important point of contact for many people around me,” said Schwarz, a father of two young children.
Asked if his decision to stay in the Russian capital could be construed as tacit acceptance of the invasion, he replied that he could understand why outsiders unaware of the situation at the club might see the decision as controversial.
“I evaluated the situation for myself as a person, not as a coach, but really as a person, every single day,” Schwarz said. “And it was important to me first and foremost to address the war clearly and openly internally, in the club leadership, in the team.”
The former Dynamo coach said he felt he had to be there for the people at the club.
“That had nothing to do with the job, but simply because I knew there was and continues to be a lot of fear there,” Schwarz said.
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