Expelled By Russian Bombs, Shakhtar Donetsk Approves Her Trip

It was not the sound of the bomb, though he heard it, that brought to mind the memory of Darijo Srna. They were airplane sirens.

When they cried in Kyiv just after 6 a.m. on Feb. 24, Srna frozen in fear. His mind was flooded with thoughts and memories of his childhood, which he had first experienced during the war, when the former Yugoslavia collapsed in the 1990s.

Since then, football has taken Srna, 39, away from his home in Croatia to a prestigious job, largely by the Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk, where he is currently the head of football, as well as Champions League matches and at. 2 World Cups. But within a short time, the sound of the sirens echoed through.

“I was terrified,” she says. “You have pain all your life, for sure – inside you. This is what you try to forget. But you will never forget things like that.”

Shakhtar Donetsk has already fled the bombs. In 2014, the last time Russian troops invaded Ukraine, artillery landed at Shakhtar Stadium. A few days later, the group packed up and headed west, starting a nomadic life: moving to a new home in Lviv, west of the country, and then east again, to Kharkiv, before settling in the Kyiv capital.

Now Shakhtar is on the move again. Last week, after receiving a special order to deport military men abroad, players and coaches arrived in Istanbul. With the battle leading up to the suspension of the second half of the Ukrainian season, Shakhtar will soon be a touring team, playing a show game – the first was. Saturday in Greece – bringing awareness to the plight of the Ukrainian people and raising funds for the war.

Shakhtar Donetsk had not yet ceased to be a group. Now, that hopes, it’ll be a symbol, too.

“I don’t know which team in football history would be like us,” Srna said. “No other team has ever heard or lived what we have eight years ago.”

Shakhtar officials were confident that there would be no war, as Russia had assembled troops and weapons on the Ukrainian border; even the players began to complain; as anxious relatives call them daily at the winter training camp in Turkey with stories, warnings, requests.

As a result in February, Sergei Palkin, Shakhtar’s chief, called a meeting to address growing concerns.

“I said everything will be fine because the President of Ukraine, everyone, says there is no problem, war is not coming,” Palkin said.

The group set off for Kyiv. But Palmin was wrong. Three days later, the Russian army crossed the border, and instead of preparing to play the second half of its league, the team managers suddenly found that they needed to count differently.

Although most of Shakhtar’s Ukrainian players moved to Lviv, where they joined the team when they were forced to leave Donetsk, a team of more than 50 players and colleagues fled to team-mate Rinat Akhmetov’s hotel. From there, timely support and long-distance phone calls helped to develop security plans for foreign players and their families.

Srna was a key player in the negotiations, which also involved players’ associations, Ukrainian clubs and neighbors and the European governing body, UEFA. He also recounted his experiences – he was also a member of the group the last time he fled to safety, in 2014 – he served as a guide.

“Unfortunately,” he said rudely, “this is my third war.”

The players soon returned to South America and elsewhere where Srna embarked on his journey: which was a 37-hour trip to Croatia, where most of his family still lives, to prove to them that he was. safe. Two family members on his father’s side were killed after the end of the former Yugoslavia, so it was not just his nerves that needed stability.

However, once it touched the foundation, Srna had just started to do a new job: how to move more children living in Shakhtar’s youth academy outside Kyiv to avoid injury. The role was very professional and personal: Most of the children were only 12 and 13 years old, about the age of Srna when they first encountered war.

Hajduk Split, Srna’s first club, said it would be ready to welcome the boys if they could get to the city. Dinamo Zagreb, another Croatian team, will offer buses if Shakhtar can take the players to the Ukraine-Hungary border. Players and the entire Shakhtar team spent two days at the Dinamo stadium, Srna said, where they were fed and illuminated by doctors before moving to Split.

Today, thanks to the efforts, more than 80 children, some of their mothers and a few elderly teachers and medical professionals are doing well in Croatia, away from the dangers of war, education and even playing sports again.

“I just put myself in their situation,” Srna said of the participation. “I did not want these kids to spend all day listening to bombs and bullets.

“What I remember as a child, I remember who gave me chocolate, gave me a ball, gave me water. And that was the most important thing.”

Like any other part of the Ukrainian population, Shakhtar has been affected by the war in significant ways. A professor at the team’s college died after being captured by Russian troops during the first few weeks of the war. Two members of the team’s sales department have taken up arms.

Shakhtar’s training ground in Kyiv is also marked by conflict. Parts of its training grounds were damaged by bullets, and ammunition ripped through the team’s storage equipment.

The conflict has also attracted the attention of people like Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man. Like a few oligarchs in Russia, they became very rich – sometimes in the midst of questionable questions – wild and unpredictable after the fall of the Soviet Union. Akhmetov has said he appears to be giving millions of dollars of his wealth into the war, and said in an interview that he remained committed to his country and his party. “All our efforts are focused on the one thing that is really important – to help Ukraine win this war,” he said.

The trials of Akhmetov and his football team are now in line with those of the Ukrainian government – alliances that have already helped Shakhtar deal with some special issues. For example, before the emigration to Turkey, the dictatorship was required to replace the dictatorial regime prohibiting military service from leaving the country during the war. The approval arrived Wednesday afternoon. Now, in Istanbul, his travels are in full swing.

The game, starting with Olympiakos in Athens on Saturday, is seen as an instrument of embassy, ​​an opportunity to create a personal identity for the troubled Ukraine, raise money for the country’s military and provide assistance to its citizens.

But matches will also play an important role in the game. Several Shakhtar Donetsk players are also members of the Ukrainian national team, and the game has helped keep them strong ahead of the crucial tournament in June at the 202nd World Cup. (Shakhtar Tournament, Dynamo Kyiv, playing a series of demonstration games for the same reasons; Both clubs have invited players from other Ukrainian clubs to expand their list, among other things, for Ukraine to qualify for the World Cup in the June playoff.)

The Shakhtar team that will take part in the upcoming tour – matches against Polish and Turkish clubs have been scheduled, and matches against the A-list may follow – have been hailed by its international talent: Many of these players have decided to allow. to temporarily sign with groups outside Ukraine after the war broke out. Many will never return. But some, such as Brazilian defender Marlon, will return, and some are considering options.

“We are not angry, we are all human,” Srna said. “It’s important for them to be safe and for their family.”

The new season in Ukraine, meanwhile, is set to begin in July. Due to the devastation of the country and the ongoing war, the timeline seems to be conserving space. When the ball comes back, as it will be, nothing will be the same.

It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. In any case, regardless of the end, the team officials said Shakhtar will not give up on his roots.

“They can put up any flag they want in Donetsk,” Srna said. “But Shakhtar will always be in Donetsk; it’s something no one else and nothing can change. “

Wherever Shakhtar can call home, anyone who plays for a short period of time, one idea cannot be imagined: a game against Russia. Palkin said he was confident that European football authorities would ensure that Ukrainian teams did not overtake those from Russia in future tournaments. But he had an easy answer if Shakhtar ever encountered such comparisons. “We couldn’t play,” he said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.