Ukrainian football club Shakhtar launches peace-themed tour | Sports news
By GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP sportswriter
Ukrainian football club Shakhtar Donetsk will host a series of charity matches to raise money for the country’s military in the war against Russia as part of a government-backed ‘Global Tour for Peace’.
The exhausted squad have gathered in Turkey to prepare for Saturday’s opening game against Greek leaders Olympiakos. The games will also raise money for Ukrainian refugees displaced by the war.
“Football diplomacy will help us engage millions of fans around the world in supporting Ukraine, which is really important,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Friday. “Through this charity tour, we will continue to draw world attention to Russian aggression against Ukraine and raise more money for the Ukrainian army.”
Shakhtar will also play Fenerbahce, Hajduk Split and Lechia Gdansk, with other opponents yet to be confirmed.
Football clubs across Europe have offered to play matches against Ukrainian clubs and take in youth players after football was shut down in the country when Russia invaded in February.
Olympiakos promoted the game as “Football for Peace – Stop the War in Ukraine”. Tickets for the game in Piraeus cost 10 euros ($10.90).
“This is the opening game in a series of friendlies that the Ukrainian team will play against top clubs in Europe and the USA,” said the Greek champions.
Shakhtar have not played a competitive game since mid-December. On February 26, the league leaders should resume the domestic season after a winter break. But two days before their game at Metalist Kharkiv, Russia launched its military invasion and Ukrainian football stopped.
Shakhtar usually provides several players for the Ukraine national team, who failed to play a World Cup qualifying play-off against Scotland two weeks ago.
FIFA wants to host this game in Glasgow in early June. The winner plays Wales a few days later for a place at this year’s World Cup in Qatar. FIFA also removed Russia from the playoffs.
Shakhtar have relied on a core of Brazilian players to win 13 league titles and become a regular in the Champions League over the past 20 years. In December, Shakhtar finished bottom in a Champions League group that included Real Madrid and Inter Milan.
During the war, FIFA changed transfer rules to let players sign elsewhere with Ukrainian clubs. Shakhtar loaned Tetê to Lyon while Junior Moraes, who gained citizenship and played for Ukraine, went to Brazil to play for Corinthians.
The club’s success continues despite being banned from its hometown of Donetsk in 2014 when pro-Russian separatists seized control of parts of eastern Ukraine. The team has played in Kyiv in recent years.
The club, nicknamed Miners, is owned by billionaire Rinat Akhmetov and has become a symbol of his native region. Matches of the European Championship 2012 were held in the Donbass Arena.
The club said it has so far provided 1.4 billion Ukrainian hryvnia ($48 million) in “humanitarian aid to civilians, as well as support to the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Territorial Defense Force in dozens of cities and towns” during the war .
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.
Comments are closed.