Football: Shakhtar Donetsk: The Endless Exile

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The Ukrainian club had already fled the Donbass to Kiev in 2014, when the stadium was mutilated by bombs. This time he goes to Istanbul, where he uses the facilities of the Turkish Federation.

Shakhtar Donetsk players use the facilities of the Turkish Football Association, witness the waving flags.

AFP

They had already fled the Donbass to Kiev in 2014, when their stadium was mutilated by the bombs: the football players of Shakhtar Donetsk, a major Ukrainian club, are now training in Istanbul and continuing their exile far from their supporters.

“It’s very hard to lose your house (…), to have to run from one place to another, all because of a tyrant, a dictator,” the guard told AFP. and club legend Andriy Pyatov, age 37, 14 of whom they spent in the “Shakhtar” cages.

Shakhtar Donetsk goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov in training in Istanbul.

Shakhtar Donetsk goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov in training in Istanbul.

AFP

With 480 matches, a large 190 cm bare frame, the porter has earned ten of the thirteen crowns of Ukrainian champions, won by his club, which reigns over the national championship together with the historical rivals of Dynamo Kiev (16 titles).

But he also lived the eight-year wandering of the club between the capital Kiev, Lviv (west) and Karkhiv (northeast), some thirty kilometers from the Russian border, since the Donetsk region saw the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists. .

The invasion of Ukraine launched by Moscow on February 24, which prevented the resumption of the Ukrainian championship at the end of the winter break, this time pushed Shakhtar Donetsk players beyond their country’s borders.

“I didn’t like the idea of ​​giving up now”

Roberto De Zerbi, Italian coach of Shakhtar Donetsk

Arriving in Istanbul on April 6, the team kicked off last week in Athens against Olympiakos, a tour of friendlies designed to raise money to help orphaned children in particular from the war in Ukraine.

“If we can raise a little money to help, then I think it was the right decision,” said Pyatov, on the lawn of the green training center in northeast Istanbul where regular players of the Turkish national team train.

“I didn’t like the idea of ​​giving up now,” explains Roberto De Zerbi, the team’s coach, who returned from Italy on Thursday to prepare his men for the tour that took them to Gdansk (Poland). in early May, let them face Fenerbahçe (Turkey) and Hajduk Split (Croatia).

Shakhtar Donetsk's coach Roberto De Zerbi has returned from Italy to prepare his team for the support tour.

Shakhtar Donetsk’s coach Roberto De Zerbi has returned from Italy to prepare his team for the support tour.

AFP

The 13 Brazilians who wore the colors of Shakhtar Donetsk until the start of the conflict all fled the country at the end of February. There are only two players left in Ukraine: Georgiy Sudakov, whose wife is about to give birth, and Viktor Kornienko, who has joined the territorial defense.

The other players were allowed to leave Ukraine with a special permit, as all Ukrainians between the ages of 18 and 60 – and thus of combative age – are normally not allowed to leave the territory.

None of them have taken up arms at this stage, a club spokesperson said. But “if I have to, I will,” says Pyatov, whose family is still in Ukraine.

The dream of finding the Donbass Arena

Roberto De Zerbi will not prevent any of his players from fighting, he assures us: “When it comes to fighting for his freedom, his dignity, his pride, his country, I can only congratulate him.”

The club’s president, Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, has promised not to leave Ukraine. His team will face Fenerbahçe on Tuesday at the Istanbul stadium, where Pyatov and his then teammates won the 2009 UEFA Cup against Werder Bremen.

A symbolic stadium, but not as much as the Donbass Arena in Donetsk, a state-of-the-art venue that made the club and locals proud after its inauguration in 2009… but where no match has been played since May 2014.

Will Shakhtar be playing there again soon? “I dream of it, like all players. But we know it won’t happen overnight,” says Pyatov, at the age when many players have already hung their cleats. “It will take a long time, but I’m dreaming still love it.”

Roberto De Zerbi shows his players the way.

Roberto De Zerbi shows his players the way.

AFP

AFP

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