As chaos continues in Ukraine, the soccer season is about to kick off in the Eastern European nation.
UEFA have already moved to separate teams from Russia and Ukraine playing against each other in the UEFA Champions and Europa League’s and now European soccer’s governing body has ruled that two of the countries biggest teams must play outside their home cities.
[RELATED: Shakhtar players fear for life]
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk says UEFA has moved the first leg of its Champions League qualifier against FC Copenhagen out of eastern Ukraine. The game will now be played in Kiev on July 30 at the Olympic Stadium. Dnipro are based in the largely Russian speaking city of Dnipropetrovsk, which is 131 miles from Donetsk but has seen few outbreaks of violence since the conflict with Russia began.
The other Ukrainian team in the UCL, Shakhtar Donetsk, will play its home games in the western city of Lviv because Donetsk is under pro-Russian rebel control. Lviv is 600 miles west of Donetsk, but the reigning five-time Ukrainian champions have no other options as unrest continues to surge in and around their home city.
In recent days the situation in Donetsk has got even worse as Ukrainian forces try to gain control of the city from rebel forces. Shakhtar’s coach Mireca Lucescu confirmed that “Arena Lviv will be our home arena” for Champions League and domestic games, but the players and staff will live in the capital Kiev. Those two cities are 335 miles apart. Not ideal.
This move should ease the worries of six Shakhtar players who have yet to return to Ukraine as they fear for their lives. Alex Teixeira, Fred, Dentinho, Douglas Costa, Facundo Ferreyra and Ismaily all refused to return to the war-torn nation, plus plenty of other players and clubs have felt the impact from the conflict that continues to rumble on ahead of the opening weekend of the new Ukrainian Premier League season.
In total four Ukrainian teams — Metalurh Donetsk, Olimpik Donetsk, Zorya Luhansk and Shakhtar — played in cities currently held by pro-Russian rebels and all will start the season playing in neutral venues.