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    Saturday, June 15, 2024

    Slovakia Great Hamsik Hopes Euro 2024 Games Can Bring Unity after Shooting of Prime Minister Fico


    Slovakia’s most storied player in modern soccer said Saturday he hopes European Championship games can unite the nation after the attempted assassination of Prime Minister Robert Fico.

    Marek Hamsik is an assistant coach now with Slovakia after playing the last of his record 138 national-team games one year ago. His career tally of 26 goals also is a Slovakia record.

    “These times are terrible for Slovakia,” Hamsik said in translated comments at the team training camp when asked about last month’s shooting that the populist Fico survived. “I couldn’t even imagine it happening.”

    “Sport always did connect the people and lifted the mood in the country, so I hope people will cheer for us and set their differences aside,” the longtime Napoli star said. Slovakia’s first Euro 2024 game is Monday against Group E favorite Belgium in Frankfurt.

    Fico was shot multiple times when he greeted supporters in the town of Handlova. One month later he is recuperating in Bratislava.

    Fico started this third separate spell as prime minister last year after campaigning on a pro-Russian and anti-American platform. His coalition government ended military aid for neighboring Ukraine and he has opposed European Union sanctions on Russia.

    In a video message published June 5, Fico suggested he was attacked because his views on Ukraine were outside the mainstream, and “the right to have a different opinion has ceased to exist in the European Union.”

    Slovakia plays Ukraine on Friday in Duesseldorf. The countries share a land border of about 100 kilometers (60 miles). AP

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