Ukrainian football stars kick off empowering scheme to train future leaders

Ukrainian football stars Andriy Shevchenko and Oleksandr Zin-chenko are backing an “empowering” education scheme with the goal of creating the future leaders needed to rebuild their war-torn homeland.

The pair pitched in for the launch of the Oxbridge Foundation which will work to secure ­university places at Oxford and Cambridge for promising teenagers.

The scheme will fund as many as 20 Ukrainian students, aged 17 to 19, to spend a year at the two elite British universities, or at University of California, Berkeley.

Former Chelsea striker Shev-chenko scored 48 goals in 111 games while representing his country on the international stage.

Now in management, the 47-year-old believes the Oxbridge Foun-dation can “make a big difference” to efforts to undo the ravages of Russia’s invasion. He said: “Supporting the educational development of young people is essential to empowering the next generation.

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“It is vital as part of our united efforts to rebuild Ukraine and help our people. By nurturing their talent and investing in their futures, the Oxbridge Foundation will have a fundamental impact on the lives of these students, their families and communities. I’m committed to helping maintain awareness of the war in Ukraine and helping ensure a variety of help and support is sourced constantly.”

Shevchenko, who now works as an adviser to Ukraine leader President Volodymyr Zelensky, admitted that following the Israel-Gaza conflict, public attention had shifted away from the war against Russia. But he said: “I want to bring attention back to Ukraine. Every day since the war started, I’ve been working for that. If you belong to a country and believe in something you should stand up for your rights.”

Zinchenko, 26, who joined Arsenal last year from Manchester City, said he wants to help “all Ukrainian people affected by the war”.

He added: “It’s essential we do not forget the damage still going on and how it affects all Ukrainians around the world. It’s outrageous but we stand together. We’re privileged here in the UK and we can make a difference by working together. The support here has helped so much.”

The foundation was set up by Stephen Clarke, principal of Cherwell College, Oxford, and his Ukrainian-born wife Helen, who is vice-principal. Before joining the university, Mr Clarke was Whitehall’s First Secretary in Ukraine.

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