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Championship club to play Ukrainian giants in special friendly with gesture amid ongoing war

One Championship club are to play Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk in a special friendly with a gesture to be made amid the ongoing war.

Hull City will take on the Shakhtar at the MKM Stadium later this summer, according to Hull Daily Mail, as part of their preparations for the 2022/23 Championship campaign which will begin late July.

The game will aim to raise money to support the people of Ukraine impacted by the Russian invasion, but to also strengthen relations between the two clubs.

A big crowd is anticipated for the clash against Roberto De Zerbi’s side who they try to get used to playing football again with the Ukrainian Premier League currently suspended due to the war with stadiums also bombed.

Shakhtar are based in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine, an area that has suffered heavy attack from Russia ever since 2014.

They were forced to move from their 70,000 capacity Donbass Arena to Lviv, playing games in the Western city between 2014 and 2016 before playing home matches in Kharkiv, while the club’s offices and training ground remain in Lviv.

Since May last year, Shakhtar have played home matches at the Olympic Stadium in the capital Kyiv but uncertainty remains over when and if they can go back. Any hopes of life returning to normal unfortunately looks far from it with the invasion expected to go on for a while longer.

Hull City are wanting to build strong partnerships and by setting up a friendly with Donetsk, it will help do just that, with the club also wanting to show their support, something close to Georgian head coach Shota Arveladze.

“I have to say how much I worry about Ukraine, how much I worry about that nation because I love the nation,” he told Hull Live.

“They’re very close to our nation (Georgia) and I want to just wish them peace and God bless them and they’re in my heart. All Georgians are supporting Ukraine.

“The same scenario happened to my country in 2008, it’s an absolute copy. Throughout history, they’re one of the countries who have loved us and we love them. We will always support them.

“We’ve been shouting and screaming to the world, it’s not going to end there and will have consequences.

“We wish everyone health and peace – we want no war and in this moment, we all feel pain for them and we all wish them to win and finish this as soon as possible. I hope they will get some peace and a normal life back again

“We will pray for them, and God will bless Ukraine,” he added.

Hajduk and Shakhtar Donetsk recently played a humanitarian friendly match at Poljud under the theme ‘Football for Peace’. The game finished in 3-3 draw.

Shota Arveladze’s men also hope to to face La Liga side Sevilla during their pre-season training camp to the Marbella Football Centre in July.

There are also talks of Hull taking on Arveladze’s former side Rangers in a friendly along with other well known European sides.

English football has done a lot to show it’s support towards Ukraine, and as the season came to an end, Man City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko invited a 10-year-old Ukrainian refugee, who ‘dreamed of becoming a footballer’, to train at Manchester City and shares his belief that ‘victory will come soon’ over Russia.

The left-back uploaded images on his Instagram page of an aspiring Ukrainian player getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at City.

‘This is Andriy,’ Zinchenko wrote. ‘He is 10 years old. Today he is already safe. Like most Ukrainians, he and his family were forced to flee their homes because of the war.

‘Another 75 days ago, this boy dreamed of becoming a footballer and trained carefree with his team. Today he dreams of only one thing – peace in our country. About peace. About normal life at home.

‘It hurts me a lot that because of the war in Russia, there are a lot of children like Andriy in Ukraine today. Deprived of childhood, and even worse – life. I believe that the day of our Ukrainian victory will come soon.

‘And all children will be able to relive their carefree childhood, full of children’s dreams and positive emotions, which today for a few minutes could feel Andrew at the training session.’

Zinchenko was born in Radomyshl, approximately 60 miles west of Kyiv, and most of his friends and family have stayed put in the city, with some signing up to fight.

‘I can’t live outside this situation,’ Zinchenko told the Guardian last month. ‘Trying to follow everything is basically my life now. The first thing I do every day is reach for my phone, and then it’s in my hand constantly.

‘It’s been more than seven weeks now and you can see some people starting to forget, starting to adapt to the brutality in my country. No, no, no. People are starving, dying, bodies being discovered, so how can anyone relax? You have to talk even more.’

‘I hate the people who invaded our land more and more and more every day. I won’t stop talking about it, because the whole world has to know the truth.’

In mid-May, Plymouth Argyle welcomed nine Ukrainian refugees for a stadium tour and a training session.

The League One outfit invited children aged between 12 and 16 to their Home Park stadium.

The children, who have been living with host families in Tavistock, had an hour-long session with Argyle coaches and took home training kit afterwards.

Lee Hodge, head of academy coaching, said it was “great” to see “smiles on their faces”.

Mr Hodge said: “We wanted to give them the opportunity to play at Home Park, especially after the awful things they have gone through.

“Football is a universal language and you could see that all of those students were passionate about football.

“It was just great to see the smiles on their faces.”

The children have moved to Devon to escape the war in Ukraine after the Russian invasion.

The session also included a special visit from first team manager Steven Schumacher, the club said.

In April, an 11 year old boy who fled from the war in Ukraine was a guest of honour and celebrated by the team and supporters at Gillingham Football Club during their game with Fleetwood Town on Monday.

Daniel and his mother Yana fled their home near Lviv in western Ukraine and have been living with a family in Folkestone, Kent, since Friday April 8th.

Daniel’s British host and Gillingham fan Malcolm Bell said he was “incredibly proud” to watch Daniel walk out with his son Freddie.

“I’m going to use the word overwhelming, it really was,” Mr Bell told the PA news agency.

“To see my boys there and to see Daniel there was an incredibly proud moment.

“Then as I was walking off the pitch with them, Stuart O’Keefe came up and shook my hand and looked me in the eye and said ‘have a good game’. That meant the world to me.”

Mr Bell had initially hoped Daniel would be given a shout-out at the League One match but the 11-year-old was given a tour of Priestfield Stadium, met the players and manager Neil Harris, and flanked the team’s captain as they made their way on to the pitch.

He was also invited to have a photo taken with man of the match Ryan Jackson in the boardroom afterwards.

Daniel told PA he was “very excited” after his big day out, and confirmed he would like to go again to watch the Gills.

“A lot of people were saying to me ‘well done, thank you, you’re doing a great job’,” said Mr Bell.

“Lovely comments… but also other people patting Daniel on his shoulder and stuff like that and welcoming him, it was a really nice touch.

“I’m proud of Gillingham Football Club for what they did.”

Gillingham said in a statement: “Gillingham Football Club were honoured to welcome Daniel, along with Gills fan Malcolm Bell, to MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Easter Monday as our special guests.

“This was Daniel’s first ever live football match and he was given a guided tour of the ground, which involved meeting members of the playing squad in the dressing room and manager Neil Harris in the dugout.

“We hope Daniel enjoyed his experience and we hope to see him again in the near future.”

Earlier this month, Ukraine’s national team turned their focus back to football when they beat Borussia Monchengladbach 2-1 in a friendly.

It was the first time they had played since Russia’s invasion of their country in February and the game also came as a useful warm-up for next month’s World Cup qualifier with Scotland. Goals from Mykhaylo Mudryk and Oleksandr Pikhalyonok earned victory in Germany.

A Borussia Monchengladbach statement read: “We’re glad that we could help Ukraine with their preparations for the World Cup play-offs and would like to wish them all the best!”

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