It’s actually inconceivable, but the new football season starts today in Ukraine, even though the country is going through a brutal war.
In the first game, Shakhtar Donetsk hosts opponents Metalist Kharkiv at midday in Kyiv. The head of the Ukrainian football association Andriy Pawelko (46) explains the start: “It will be a unique competition. It takes place in the midst of war, during military aggression and bombing.”
On Wednesday it was exactly six months ago that Russia started its terrible war of aggression against Ukraine, after that there was no thought of football in cities like Kharkiv, Kyiv or Odessa.
Now Premjer-Liha games are to be kicked off again. But the circumstances are anything but normal. The game is played in empty stadiums, fans are not allowed due to the threat of air raids.
All stadiums must have air raid shelters at least nearby. If there is a siren alarm, the game is stopped and protection is sought. If this lasts longer than an hour, a decision will be made in consultation with the referee as to whether the game can be continued.
The arenas in which the games are played are in Kyiv, in the region around the capital and in western Ukraine.
Another problem for Ukrainian clubs is Fifa’s rule that foreign players could leave their club for free. The league has lost more than half of the foreign professionals.
Despite it: Now it’s time to start kicking again. Pawelko: “Many people from the front asked us to think about reviving football in our country.”