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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Ian Parker

Football can be ‘best medicine’ for trio who had to flee war – Luxembourg boss

PA Archive

Luxembourg coach Luc Holtz hopes that football can be the “best medicine” for the three members of his squad who had to flee the war in Ukraine.

Brothers Vincent and Olivier Thill, and Enes Mahmutovic, are in Holtz’s squad for Friday’s friendly against Northern Ireland at the Stade de Luxembourg, having abandoned their club careers in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the country.

The Thill brothers had both been playing for Vorskla Poltava while former Middlesbrough defender Mahmutovic was captain of FC Lviv.

All three managed to get out of the country at the end of February, with the Thill brothers travelling via Hungary and Mahmutovic escaping through Poland.

“It was three weeks ago when they had to come back home and it was very difficult to have these pictures in their heads, these terrible scenes,” said Holtz, who had been in regular contact with his players as the crisis in Ukraine escalated.

“It was very emotional. For that reason to play football is the best thing to take these terrible pictures out of their heads.

“In training now they behave very well and they are fit and they are happy to restart football. Of course it is not easy for them, you can’t forget it from one minute to another, but they are happy to play football and football is the best medicine to get over this trauma.”

Luc Holtz said all three players were ready for Friday’s match against Northern Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA) (PA Archive)

After getting back to Luxembourg, Mahmutovic gave a vivid account of his escape to Luxembourg newspaper Le Quotidien last month.

In it, he spoke of walking the final seven-and-a-half miles to the Polish border due to the huge queues to get across, then watching as families were separated with men between the ages of 18 and 55 required to stay behind and defend their country.

“Many people were crying,” he said. “It was hard, very hard, to see families say what could perhaps be their last farewell.”

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