Shakhtar Donetsk are not any strangers to a nomadic existence, however the membership’s newest journey is taking them throughout Europe in an try to boost cash for Ukrainians affected by the battle with Russia, led by a person who has seen all of it earlier than.
Escaping from Kyiv in late February as Russian bombs fell within the Ukrainian capital introduced all of it flooding again for Shakhtar’s director of soccer Darijo Srna.
Srna first skilled battle as a baby when the previous Yugoslavia broke aside within the Nineties earlier than the Croatian left his dwelling in Donetsk whereas a participant at Shakhtar as Russian-backed forces entered the area in 2014, the place they continue to be.
A nomadic existence started as Shakhtar moved to the western metropolis of Lviv, after which settled in Kyiv earlier than the Russians once more brought about them to maneuver on.
”Battle will not be a pleasant expertise in any method, I ought to know,” Srna, 39, instructed Reuters in a Zoom interview.
”In battle, there isn’t any winner. You’ll be able to rebuild faculties or hospitals however you can not carry again human beings.
”I hold studying articles saying Russia invaded Ukraine 50, 60 days in the past, however they got here in 2014 after we misplaced our houses, our stadium and a few of our folks. We all know now we should do one thing extra to assist.”
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a ”particular operation” that it says will not be designed to occupy territory however to destroy its southern neighbour’s navy capabilities and seize what it regards as harmful nationalists.
After agreeing with the federal government that Ukrainian gamers didn’t have to remain and struggle the Russians, Srna, who spent 15 years as a participant on the membership, has organised for Shakhtar to play a sequence of matches on their ”International Tour for Peace”.
Soccer’s travellers have performed matches in Poland, Turkey and Greece, earlier than heading to Srna’s dwelling nation of Croatia to tackle Hajduk Break up on Sunday. All proceeds will likely be despatched to assist stricken Ukrainians again dwelling.
”In each state of affairs, we should discover a higher method,” Srna added. ”Everybody supported us – our president, the president of the Ukraine FA and UEFA.
”Footballers are extra helpful on the pitch than someplace with a gun. Soccer can unite the world. We discover a method to assist with shopping for drugs and different obligatory issues. We’re concerned to carry one other 120 youngsters to Croatia into our houses.
”I’m so happy with all Ukrainians as a result of I lived there 19 years and I’ll return quickly. They’re heroes.”
Getting out was not straightforward as Russian forces attacked the capital, with former coach Paulo Fonseca caught up within the mass exodus. Once more, Srna and Shakhtar got here to the rescue.
”After I left (AS) Roma I moved again to Kyiv with my spouse who’s from Ukraine,” the Portuguese instructed Reuters.
”The week earlier than (the battle) I used to be on vacation however returned early to get our household out of Kyiv. The issue was I had a flight out the morning the battle began.
”Darijo known as me and stated it’s best to not depart right this moment, come and keep of their lodge with the gamers. We stayed within the bunker at night time, till we determined to depart on a 25-hour minibus to the Romanian border. That is nothing in comparison with what others have been by.”
Now out of Kyiv, the membership’s mission stays to do every little thing attainable to assist these much less lucky nonetheless caught up within the battle.
On Tuesday the Ukrainian Premier League 2021-22 season was suspended as a result of ongoing battle, making it unsure when Shakhtar will return dwelling.
Their true dwelling, nonetheless, has not modified. Srna and everybody concerned on the membership nonetheless hope that sooner or later, each time that could be, they’ll return to Donetsk.
”We’re miners (the membership’s nickname). Shakhtar will all the time be from Donetsk, it doesn’t matter which sort of flag they are going to put there,” Srna added. ”Shakhtar is from Donetsk, and that’s it.
”They can not take this from us.”