Exiled Shakhtar dream of going home
29 September 2014, 10:31
Donetsk - Reigning Ukraine champions Shakhtar, who have been exiled from their native Donetsk because of the bloody clashes between government forces and pro-Russian rebels, are dreaming of going home.
Shakhtar have set up their training base in Kiev and have chosen the venue in Lviv -- around 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) away from Donetsk -- in western Ukraine as their home ground for domestic and Champions League matches.
"I still don't know when we will have a chance to come back home to Donetsk," said Shakhtar manager Mircea Lucescu.
"We all want to play at Donbass Arena, to feel our fans' passionate support. But we have to play at Lviv as our president said it's still too dangerous to return."
The prospects of Shakhtar's return are slim at the moment as their training base, 'Kirsha' in the south of the city, has been seriously damaged by shelling.
Shells have also damaged the facade of Donetsk's state-of-the-art Donbass Arena, once a glittering venue which staged matches at the 2012 European championship.
"Of course, we all want to live in peace and harmony," said Shakhtar's Ukraine international defender Ivan Ordets.
"We feel comfortable in Kiev but Donetsk is in our hearts forever. We all want to come back home."
Earlier this year six foreign players expressed their desire to leave Shakhtar because of the political situation soon after the Malaysia Airlines crash.
The six were named as Brazilians Fred, an attacking midfielder who has represented his country at Under 20 level, Alex Teixeira, Douglas Costa, Dentinho, Ismaily and Argentine Facundo Ferreyra.
However, the personal pledge of security from the club's president Rinat Akhmetov, as well as the charm front mounted by Lucescu, has helped smooth doubts.
Despite the difficult political situation, Shakhtar have not only kept their line-up but have also boosted their defence by signing another Brazilian, Marcio Azevedo from Metalist Kharkiv.
"I'm very grateful to Lucescu who believes in me and has given me the chances to show what I can do," Azevedo told AFP.
"It's an absolutely amazing feeling when you play in the Champions League. I was happy like a child during the match with Athletic Bilbao."
Since Shakhtar were bought by Ukraine's richest man Akhmetov in 1996, the club have ended the domination of Dynamo Kiev in domestic league and also won the UEFA Cup in 2009.
This year Shakhtar, whose name means "miner" in Ukrainian, won their fifth consecutive domestic title bringing the overall number of Ukraine's titles to nine.
Meanwhile, football lovers in Donetsk, who were angered and frustrated after being deprived of the chance to attend matches, are also hoping for a Shakhtar return.
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"It's too far and too expensive for me to drive to Lviv to watch Shakhtar," 22-year-old fan Alexei told AFP.
"I watched some of their matches this season when they've played in Kiev but it's not the same as watching them at home. I just can't wait to see Shakhtar at the Donbass Arena again. We love them and we need them here."
Shakhtar will play their second game of the Champions League season on Tuesday against Porto in Lviv.
The club have been watched by average crowds of around 10,000 at the 35,000-seater Lviv Arena but local organisers insist Tuesday's game against the Portuguese giants is a sell-out.