A football club has lost its home again, now it tours Europe raising money for war victims in Ukraine


When Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on the morning of February 24, Darijo Srna was awoken at 6 a.m. by the audio of air raid sirens.

It was a sound the previous intercontinental football star states instantly transported his “head and entire body” back to his indigenous Croatia, exactly where he lived as an eight-calendar year-aged when war broke out in what was then Yugoslavia.

So when his soccer club Shakhtar Donetsk was compelled to go away Kyiv, the city that had been a single of the team’s lots of short-term bases given that 2014, at the start of Russia’s invasion, it was however a situation Srna was all much too familiar with.

The former Croatian global is just 39 a long time old, but he has previously knowledgeable three wars in his everyday living initial in Croatia in the early 1990s, then in 2014 in Ukraine’s Donbas area — Shakhtar’s serious household — and now across substantially of the rest of the region.

“It was not a good memory,” Srna, who is Shakhtar Donetsk’s director of soccer, says of his childhood. “When I started to ignore about that a small little bit and take pleasure in my lifetime, I listened to the sirens once more.

“I am potent. I want to be powerful, but at times is difficult due to the fact of everything, mainly because you missing your dwelling two times. In this second, it’s significant to be favourable, to be sturdy and to give a positive perception to every person.”

Srna — who, together with the rest of the crew, managed to escape Ukraine the working day right after Russia began its invasion — has located his strength in serving to these most influenced by the war in Ukraine.

Shakhtar, exactly where Srna is a club legend just after playing for 15 seasons, has been homeless for pretty much eight yrs now, ever considering the fact that battling broke out in between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces in 2014.

Just after retiring from skilled football in 2019, Srna took up the job of assistant coach at Shakhtar before getting to be the club’s director of football.

He is acutely knowledgeable that his plight and that of the rest of the staff is practically nothing in comparison to people combating on the front line and has been assisting to lead the club’s hard work in giving support for Ukrainian troopers and refugees.

Shakhtar is at the moment in the center of a European tour — the ‘Global Tour for Peace’ — for the duration of which they will play against a number of clubs to raise cash for people caught up in the war.

“We are not able to compare ourselves with the men and women of Ukraine,” Srna tells CNN Sport’s Don Riddell. “But we are a soccer group, we are football gamers and we are striving to do one thing we know how to do — and that is play football.

“All the cash flow we obtain from tickets and from sponsors for these games we are sending to Ukraine for the youngsters, for people who are in a extremely hard problem.

“With each other with our [club] president, Rinat Akhmetov — who is continue to there aiding Ukrainian citizens just about every day in various type of methods, medicaments and every little thing — we are now like one particular family and we are striving to do our ideal to help the citizens of Ukraine nowadays in this challenging problem.”

Ahead of the opening match of the tour, a 1- defeat by Greek large Olympiacos, Shakhtar’s gamers wore t-shirts featuring the names of the areas in Ukraine that had been most impacted by Russia’s assaults, together with Mariupol and Irpin.

Shakhtar has given that played online games against Turkish golf equipment Fenerbahce and Antalyaspor and Polish facet Lechia Gdansk, and has a match versus Croatia’s Hajduk Split scheduled for Might 1.

There was a notably transferring moment in the match against Gdansk before this thirty day period when Dmytro Keda, a 12-year-aged Ukrainian refugee, arrived on as a very last-minute substitute and scored the profitable objective.

Keda, who fled his hometown of Mariupol in Ukraine following expending a few weeks holed up as Russian forces bombarded the town, was mobbed by gamers from each teams and was held aloft in celebration.

Shakhtar’s head mentor Roberto De Zerbi stated immediately after the match that the choice to enable Keda occur on and rating was “spontaneous.”

So far, Shakhtar states the tour has raised 8.2 million Ukrainian hryvnia ($271,000), with all-around a quarter of the overall now being transferred to Akhmetov’s foundation in Ukraine.

“When I questioned the Ukrainian gamers: ‘Are you completely ready to play, for illustration, every single 2nd recreation, each third match?'” Srna recollects. “‘The extra video games [we play], the additional cash for Ukrainians.’

“They responded to me: ‘Darijo, we are Ukrainians. We can do every thing.’ And for me, that was a instant I will never fail to remember.

“But this is the Ukrainian persons. I arrived 19 several years back and they obtained me like section of their household from the initial working day and me and my relatives will in no way neglect that. I have lived a lot more in Ukraine than in Croatia. This is my dwelling. Today I’m Ukrainian and every thing we can do for them in these tricky times, we will do. Think me.

“I am happy that I lived there, that I performed there, that I fulfilled them due to the fact they are individuals with a big heart, generally good. They failed to assault everyone. They did not want to get 1 centimeter of yet another country’s land and they’re heroes these days. I am so very pleased of them and me personally, I will be with them until finally the finish.”

Srna describes that the war has been specially tough for the younger users of Shaktar’s squad to course of action.

Among the them is the previous captain of a club in Mariupol, who was invited to perform with the team on their tour just after he “dropped every little thing” through Russia’s ongoing bombardment of the metropolis.

“Initially of all, it is really fantastic that they are younger,” Srna claims. “In entrance of them, there is a prolonged occupation and this can just make them stronger. I will say one particular thing: the most stunning period of time of Croatia have been the 10 or 15 many years just after the war.

“I consider that Ukraine will be united right up until the conclude and immediately after the war we will be altogether. We will consume alongside one another, we will smile jointly, we will cry alongside one another. The most important detail will be peace in this moment.”

On Tuesday the Ukrainian Leading League 2021-22 period was suspended due to the ongoing war. Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kiev were in initial and second put on February 24, and will therefore qualify for next season’s Champions League.

– By Don Riddell and Matias Grez, CNN


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