Together on the Field and Beyond: Daria Savina and Valeriy Bondar on Sports, Family, and Balance in Life

Football brought them together. Daria Savina is a host and journalist for the Shakhtar football club. Previously, she was a host and correspondent for the “Football” and “Espresso” channels. Daria was also the media face and host for Euro 2020 on the “Football” channels. She is a Master of Sports in ballroom dancing, a multiple-time champion and finalist of the Ukrainian Cup, the Ukrainian Championship, and a prize-winner in international competitions such as the World and European Championships. In addition, she is a photo model and brand ambassador for PUMA.

Valeriy Bondar is a young central defender for Shakhtar Donetsk and the Ukrainian national team. He is a world champion in football in 2019 with Ukraine’s U-20 national team. With Shakhtar, he has been a four-time Ukrainian champion, a two-time Ukrainian Cup winner, and a one-time Ukrainian Super Cup winner. At just 25 years old, he holds the Order of Merit 3rd degree. They have been together for three years now. Today, we learn a bit more about this bright football family, their passions and traditions, and how they manage to maintain balance in their family while juggling work and family responsibilities.

Valeriy, congratulations on Shakhtar’s victory in the Ukrainian championship and winning the Ukrainian Cup this season! What emotions did you feel after the final whistle when you realized the team had won these prestigious titles?

Thank you for the congratulations! First of all, I want to say that these victories are dedicated to our fans who supported us, worried about us, and were always with us. Both the Ukrainian Cup and the Ukrainian Championship victories are dedicated to our fans, who have always been with us. In this challenging time, both for the club and for all Ukrainians who have long been away from home, it is doubly pleasant to win such trophies. As a homegrown player of Shakhtar Donetsk, who has gone through all stages from childhood, it is also doubly pleasant for me. This only motivates me to further victories and further success for our team in all tournaments in which we will participate.

I felt immense joy, immense pride for the entire team, for all the staff, for the entire coaching staff, and for the entire Shakhtar club, which does an enormous amount of work to achieve such goals. We all work together to win such cups and please not only the fans but also our families, who are always with us, supporting and cheering for us.

Daria, why did you choose sports journalism? What challenges have you faced in your professional journalism career and how did you overcome them?

My life has been connected with sports since childhood, so I am familiar with this rhythm. And I think it was no coincidence that I got the chance to try my hand at sports journalism. From the very first days of my professional career, I felt that I was in the right place. Of course, it was and sometimes is very difficult, but nothing could and can stop me. Can I say it was an easy path? No. At one time, I went through the highest level of hate and criticism. A young girl was not taken seriously at all, and it was difficult to be in a male environment at first, but all this made me even stronger. I smiled and continue to smile at obstacles; my difficulties become victories for me, and I accept constructive criticism and continue to work on myself. Time has put everything in its place. I don’t have a stop button: I am always very demanding and prejudiced against myself, I work very hard on myself, trying to become a better version of myself every day, and I confidently accept new challenges. I will never stop saying that in my case, behind a beautiful picture is a lot of work on myself. Now I am confident in myself and in what I do, I feel that I can move mountains. It is not easy for a woman to develop and go ahead in this world; it takes intelligence, strength, fearlessness, and courage. Based on this, to all the girls who will read this interview, I want to say that you should never doubt your value, uniqueness, and power. Each of us deserves all the opportunities and chances in this world to achieve our goals and make our dreams come true.

Daria, you work in the media department of the Shakhtar football club. How challenging is this job?

Working as a presenter for a football club like Shakhtar is incredibly cool and vibrant, but at the same time very responsible. This club has a huge history and ambitions. For me, it is a great honor to be part of this team. My duties include working in live broadcasts, recording major interviews, short comments, and entertainment segments. I also participate in managing social media, as our media team creates various content for viewers and fans.

This is directly related to my work direction. I always have to be with the team to be aware of all current events, so it can be said that I now live the life of the team. Most of the time, I cannot belong to myself – I live by the team’s schedule and always adjust to it. It is very difficult to always be “on the go,” rarely being at home. However, there are many more positive moments.

I love giving people positive emotions and always try to be sincere with our viewers because they can feel it. But I have no right to make mistakes, as I work in a Ukrainian giant known worldwide. Maintaining an image and professional level, always being in the spotlight, focused, and responsible is sometimes an additional challenge for my nervous system. However, I truly love my job with all my heart and soul, live it, and give my all.

Is it difficult for you to interview or take comments from your husband, considering you know everything about him?

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Absolutely not difficult, I feel no discomfort at all. Maybe because I can abstract and at work, I don’t perceive Valeriy as my husband, as strange as it may sound. Do we know everything about each other? More yes than no. But sometimes it seems to me that our joint work tandem allows us to get to know each other even better. We are more than just husband and wife. It’s an indescribable feeling to be each other’s best friends, colleagues, and lovers.

Valeriy, in 2019 you became a world champion with Ukraine’s U-20 national team. How did this experience affect your career and help you achieve your current successes?

Yes, of course, when I joined the first team, I was very young. And this tournament, the U-20 World Cup, helped me and gave me more confidence, added experience in further successes and games for Shakhtar Donetsk. Winning the U-20 World Cup was a huge step forward for me. This tournament allowed me to play at the highest level against the best young players in the world. I learned to handle the pressure of big matches, make important decisions in tense situations, and work as part of a high-level team.

This experience proved invaluable when I returned to the club. I felt more confident on the field, with more determination in my actions. The skills I acquired during the championship became the foundation for my further development. I also realized how important the support of the team and the coaching staff is, as they helped me improve and grow as a player.

I was fortunate to play with talented teammates and work with professionals who always supported me. This gave me strength and motivation to strive for more.

Daria, as a sports journalist, you often watch Shakhtar’s and other teams’ games. How do you evaluate your husband’s game and the team’s performance this season?

I am very proud of the whole team because we all did a great job to achieve our goals and win important trophies. Additionally, Shakhtar proudly represents Ukraine on the international sports stage, showing true character, beautiful football, and giving bright unforgettable emotions to all fans. Without a doubt, sometimes it was very difficult, but thanks to our UNITY, we all went through this path together.

When it comes to my husband, we love to analyze his games and actions together. I always said and will say that I am very proud of him because he fights to the last on the field, gives his all, and always worries about the result.

Is it difficult for you to combine the work of a sports journalist with family responsibilities, especially when your husband is constantly traveling for matches and training?

Sometimes it is not easy to perform multiple roles: being both a journalist and a wife. But I can confidently say that I manage to find balance.

In our case, we are both on the road, in business trips, at matches, training sessions, etc., so we fully understand and support each other. It has always been very important for me to combine personal life, self-development, career, and work. Thanks to my character, enthusiasm, and ambitions, I manage to find the golden mean.

Valeriy, what goals and ambitions do you have for the next season? Are there any personal achievements you aim to achieve?

Of course, our goals for the next season remain the highest, as our club always has ambitious tasks. We aim to repeat the success of the past season, win the Ukrainian Championship, win the Ukrainian Cup, and all the possible trophies we will participate in. Special attention will be given to performances in European competitions to show that Ukrainian football is alive and that Shakhtar remains a strong force in Europe. It is important for us to perform well in the Champions League and to represent our country with dignity at Euro 2024.

Regarding individual goals, I strive to constantly improve my skills, develop, and move forward. One day, I would like to try my hand in one of the top-5 European leagues. Playing in another championship, in a new country, is always interesting; it is the dream of every footballer who starts their journey in football. But now I am not thinking about it, because I am fully focused on Shakhtar and the Ukrainian national team.

Daria, how do you support Valeriy before important matches? Do you have any special rituals or words of encouragement?

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Of course, we have our secrets before each match. He has a talisman, given by me, that is always with him. In any situation and at any moment, I try to find the right words. These words are not always about feelings; in most cases, they are more about motivation.

Valeriy, are you jealous of other football players with Darya, or is everything quiet and without any spice in your relationship?

Our relationship is not about the story of a fiery Italian couple. We trust each other and value and respect our choice, and we have created comfortable and stable conditions for each other, where there is no place for quarrels, intrigues, or scandals. I am confident in myself and in my wife. But, of course, I must admit that it is a sin not to look at her. I see and know that people like her, they respect her, and she is interesting to society. And this flatters me, I am proud of her. After all, she is insanely beautiful not only externally but also internally. Educated, charismatic, interesting, very positive, independent, and kind. People, regardless of gender, are drawn to her because she has incredible energy and strength, but I am truly lucky because I am her husband.

Valeriy, who was your toughest opponent this season and why?

I would like to highlight two teams this season. On the one hand, it was Barcelona. Everyone knows what kind of club Barcelona is. It is a great club in the world, and when we played against them in Germany and won 1-0, it was incredibly important. Of course, it was a very tough match for our team, as all Barcelona players are top-class stars. That is why this match was extremely difficult, but we managed to win 1-0.

Another match I would like to highlight was against Porto. We lost the last round match in the group stage of the Champions League. It was also a very strong team, and the support they had at their stadium really helped them in home matches. The atmosphere at the stadium was impressive, and it definitely created additional pressure on us. I think these two opponents were the toughest for us this year.

Valeriy, how do you maintain your form and motivation during the off-season?

I always try to work individually with a physical fitness coach. We work together to improve my skills and strengthen my weaknesses. This allows me to be 100% ready for the season. Regular training with a professional helps maintain a high level of physical fitness and also reduces the risk of injuries. It is important to pay attention to all aspects of preparation – from strength and endurance to flexibility and coordination, which allows me to be as effective as possible on the field. As for motivation, I believe that additional motivation for a person who loves their job is not needed. I am always motivated, confident in myself, and strive to become a better version of myself. Love for my work and the desire to succeed in it are the strongest motivations for me. I always set high goals for myself and work hard to achieve them.

Finally, to both of you: how do you see your joint future in the world of sports? Do you have any common plans and dreams related to sports activities?

We are already developing together in the world of sports, supporting each other, motivating, and helping. Essentially, we have completely different work tasks, but our actions are aimed at achieving common goals. We certainly have big goals and ambitions for the future. We have many ideas and plans. We dream, discuss, and plan – we just need to find the time to implement all this.

Valeriy and Daria, how do you find balance between professional life and family responsibilities? Do you have any secrets or advice for other couples working in the sports field?

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We have to admit that sometimes it is not easy to combine everyday life and work, as we are together both at home and at work. But when it comes to work, we are good at separating professional life from personal life. We know what discipline is. When we are at work, each of us focuses on our goals and tasks. We adhere to the principle of not interfering with each other but only helping, motivating, and supporting if one of us needs it.

We clearly know when we have time for work and when for personal life. We are very happy that we managed to create a scheme in which everyone feels comfortable, where there is order, discipline, respect, immense love, and mutual understanding.

As for advice, it is not easy to answer, as not many couples work together in the sports field. But we can say that it is very important to listen to each other, understand, live with the interests of your partner, support, believe, and help. If you already work together, then go hand in hand, side by side, towards new heights, achievements, and goals. It is important to maintain a balance between work and personal life, respect each other’s space and time, and also find time for joint relaxation and recovery.

How do you spend your free time together? Do you have any common hobbies or traditions that help you strengthen family bonds?

You know, in our schedule, it is not so easy to find free time. It seems that we are always together, but finding time for seclusion is not that easy. Without a doubt, we love spending time together, arranging walks in Kyiv or other cities where we are, which bring us great pleasure. We also love spending time with our pets – we have two dogs. We often go to the movies, cafes, and various events and performances. In other words, we always try to find the opportunity and time to be together.

Regarding common hobbies, we are lucky that our main hobby that unites us is football. It’s very cool that we have such a common interest. There are always topics for discussion, and we are interested in being together. Besides football, we love many other sports.

As for traditions, we are a very family-oriented couple. We respect traditions, love joint relaxation with our parents, and celebrate all holidays together. This is probably our main tradition.

The secret that strengthens our relationship is understanding, common interests, respect, and love for each other. We are a true support for each other, which allows us to stay close and maintain strong family ties.

How do you support each other during difficult periods in your career or personal life?

We go through all the difficult periods in our lives and careers together. It is thanks to this that we can confidently face all the challenges with our heads held high. Of course, there have been very difficult periods in our lives, but we knew how to support and get through them. To overcome difficulties, it is very important for us to believe in the idea, in each other, and in our goals. This allows us to maintain motivation and dedication to our goals even in the hardest times. We understand each other very deeply, sometimes even feel without words. It was very important for us to find this family harmony, which creates peace and stability in relationships.

How do your parents and close ones support your family? Do they participate in your successes and life?

There is a lot to say about our parents. Thanks to our parents, Valeriy’s parents, and my mother, we have been able to achieve great heights in our endeavors, as they always believed in us, helped, motivated, and supported us. And they continue to do so now, helping us with household matters and our dogs when we are constantly on the road or on business trips. They are always ready to help.

This greatly helps us progress, work, develop, and focus on our work. We have a very strong family, we love and respect our parents very much. Whenever possible, we find time to spend together. It can be confidently said that the strength of our success and the secret of our success is the joint result of our family.

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