Donetsk-Based Ukraine Premier League Clubs Move Home Games To Avoid Violence
As fighting between Ukrainian armed forces and pro-Russian separatists continues in Eastern Ukraine, three football squads based in Donetsk, currently controlled by the separatists, are moving their home games to other cities. A spokesperson for Ukraine's Premier League told SBD Global that Olimpik, which was recently promoted to the top tier, is to be based in Kiev. Metallurg will play in the East Ukrainian city of Kharkov, and champion Shakhtar is to host games in Lviv, West Ukraine. "We don't yet know for how long these arrangements are," the spokesperson said. "We hope that the situation in Donetsk will normalize and it will be possible to host games there."
TAKING A TOLL: Meanwhile, the armed clashes in Eastern Ukraine are already taking a toll on Shakhtar, which has been on top of the league's table for five seasons in a row. Six players did not come back to Ukraine with the squad after preseason training sessions in Austria, Switzerland and France. The squad's President & Owner Rinat Akhmetov confirmed that Brazilian players Alex Teixeira, Douglas Costa, Fred, Ismaily and Dentinho and Argentine Facundo Ferreyra left the team without explanations, but he stressed that the players have valid contracts, which they have to observe. "For each of them, the amount they have to pay if they are in breach of their contract is stipulated, and it's tens of millions of euros," he said in a statement published on Shakhtar's website. "If someone wants to lower that amount by 1 million, only we can take that decision. We are not going to sell off." Akhmetov also stressed that players have no reason for fear, and that the squad will guarantee their safety. The Ukrainian Premier League's '14-15 season is to kick off on Friday.
Vladimir Kozlov is a writer in Moscow.