Teenage midfielder Max Kucheriavyi has been through a wild year in his soccer career alone, the Ukrainian 19-year-old moving to Scottish side St. Johnstone at the start of 2021 and twice going on loan.
A key modifier in that opening paragraph would tell you all you need to know about the off-field tumult he’s faced as his family back home in Ukraine handle the hideous invasion by Russia.
So when Kucheriavyi put home the lone goal for Kelty Hearts in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Stenhousemuir to seal promotion to Scottish League One, it was no surprise to see the teenager at the center of interest despite his loan club’s promotion at the first time of asking.
“It’s been a very, very hard month for me mentally,” he said, via the BBC. “You try to focus on football as much as possible. It was the only thing that helped me to stop checking the news, scrolling the news on my phone. I just try to enjoy every second of football. It’s very good to play, train, and just forget everything. Do what I love.”
Kucheriavyi explained that his family left their home in Kiev to be in a safer place, and said he’d be checking in after the game.
“I’ll probably phone my parents, have a little chat with them, and enjoy the celebrations with the boys.”
And it appears Kucheriavyi has made an instant positive impression on his boss, ex-Rangers and Middlesbrough man Kevin Thomson. Kucheriavyi has started five of his eight League Two matches for Kelty Hearts.
“What a diamond of a boy,” Thomson said. “He’s got the X-factor. I never knew he could header the ball the way he headed it today, right enough. We’re delighted with him, a really, really, top, top young boy.”
🗣️ 'I hope my family are proud of me'.
Max Kucheriavyi is hailed as 'a diamond' as he scores the goal to secure Kelty Hearts the League 2 title amid concerns for his family in Ukraine 💎⤵️
— BBC Sport Scotland (@BBCSportScot) March 27, 2022