New Hertha Berlin coach Sandro Schwarz says he struggled daily with the decision to continue working in Moscow after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Schwarz, who was hired by Hertha on Thursday, remained Dynamo Moscow coach until the team played in the Russian Cup final on Sunday.
The position of the German coach contrasts with those of his compatriots Markus Gisdol and Daniel Farke, who respectively left Lokomotiv Moscow and FC Krasnodar after the start of the war with Russia.
But Schwarz defended his decision to stay in the Russian capital.
“It was important for me, after seeing these terrible images (from Ukraine), to know how my fellow human beings felt from all the discussions we had. What came out of it was the decision as group to continue on this very, very difficult path,” Schwarz said on Friday.
“We had countless emotional moments with Ukrainian players, Russian players, with me in the coaching room, two or three of us all crying, deeply affected by the situation in Ukraine.”
Schwarz took over the Russian team last October and called his tenure “very turbulent” and “intensive” even before February 24. The invasion reached its 100th day on Friday, when Schwarz spoke to reporters for the first time since his appointment by Hertha.
“I also had this inner turmoil, on the one hand as someone seeing these terrible images and on the other hand knowing from these discussions how my players work, how my country works, how the authorities work”, Schwarz said.
The 43-year-old said he “completely condemns this war of aggression” and that the people he worked with at Dynamo were “good people. They also have a clear attitude, like all of us here, on the topic.
He said he stayed at the Moscow club “only to help people there, knowing that what is happening in Ukraine is the worst thing ever”.
Schwarz said some of the young Russian players feared being drafted to fight in Ukraine.
“I know I was a very, very important point of contact for a lot of people around me,” said Schwarz, a father of two young children.
When asked if his decision to stay in the Russian capital could be interpreted as a tacit acceptance of the invasion, he replied that he could understand why outsiders unaware of the club’s situation might view the decision as controversial.
“I assessed the situation for myself as a person, not as a coach, but really as a person, every day,” Schwarz said. “And it was important for me first and foremost to address the war clearly and openly internally, in the management of the club, in the team.”
The former Dynamo manager said he felt he had to be there for the people at the club.
“It had nothing to do with the job, just because I knew there was and still is a lot of fear out there,” Schwarz said.
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