Andriy Yarmolenko thanked the response of his club West Ham and the British public to Russia’s invasion of his homeland after the Ukrainian international scored on his return to the side in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Sunday.
Yarmolenko was given time off by the London club to aid the safe passage of some family members out of the country and recover from the distress caused by the outbreak of war.
He had not featured since early February for David Moyes’ men but was called upon as a second half substitute and made a quick impact by scoring the opening goal of the game.
Yarmolenko sank to his knees and broke down in tears as he was mobbed by his teammates in celebration.
“It was so emotional for me because of the situation in my country,” said Yarmolenko. “It is so difficult for me right now in this moment thinking about football because every day, the Russian army is killing Ukrainian people.
“It was so emotional. To be honest, I don’t know what to say. I just want to say thank you to my teammates, who support me all the time, every day. To West Ham fans, they also support me and Ukrainian people and also to all British people, because we feel you support us.
“I’m not ready for 100 percent because the last two weeks I train maybe three or four times.
“Since 26 February, I had to rest for four days because it was impossible to train, I was just thinking about my family and my people. I just tried to give everything on the pitch.”
Yarmolenko’s strike helped keep West Ham’s aspirations of Champions League football next season alive.
But Moyes reiterated the need to keep football’s importance in perspective.
“We have given the boy as much time as he needs,” said Moyes.
“His family are safe at the moment, he tells me. He wants to make sure everybody is fine and he has a lot going on.
“Sometimes, football is a release and hopefully he has had a bit of a release getting on the pitch again and scoring but there are more important things in life than football.”