Still in exile, Shakhtar Donetsk picks new home
MOSCOW (AP) — Shakhtar Donetsk is on the move again.
After nearly three years in exile because of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Shakhtar said on Monday it completed a deal to move into the 40,000-capacity Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv.
The stadium was a venue for the 2012 European Championship and was formerly home to club side Metalist Kharkiv, which collapsed financially last year.
Shakhtar has played on occasion since then in Kharkiv, which is 150 miles (240 kilometers) from Donetsk. The team said the response from fans persuaded it to sign a longer deal.
“The matches we held in Kharkiv have proved that there are many Shakhtar fans in this region,” Shakhtar general director Sergei Palkin said in a statement. “This will enable us to be closer to our fans, and I am convinced that we can make them happy with our spectacular performance and good results.”
Spanish club Celta Vigo will be Shakhtar’s opposition for its first home game under the new agreement in the Europa League on Feb. 23. The Ukrainian league resumes following its winter break later that month.
Shakhtar has not been able to play in its home city of Donetsk since 2014 because the city is under the control of Russian-backed separatists. The club’s Donbass Arena has sustained light damage from shelling and has been used as a distribution point for humanitarian aid.
Over the last three years, the former UEFA Cup and nine-time Ukrainian champions have played in various grounds around other cities in Ukraine, using a stadium in the western city of Lviv for European matches. The players will continue to live in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, despite the new deal to use the stadium in Kharkiv.