Football’s back in Kyiv, where a goalless draw is a ‘very nice’ escape from life

Shakhtar Donetsk skipper Taras Stepanenko was able to forget about the war for 90 minutes as the new Ukrainian Premier League season got under way in Kyiv.

Six months since last season was suspended in the wake of Russia’s invasion, competitive football returned on Tuesday when Shakhtar met Metalist Kharkiv at the capital’s Olympic Stadium.

It was a day on which the final score – a 0-0 draw – if far from incidental, was not the big story, a fact acknowledged by midfielder Stepanenko.

The 33-year-old told the PA news agency: “For 90 minutes, I forgot about the war. After the first half, I sat in the locker room and thought, ‘We have already played 45 minutes, very nice, I didn’t hear the alarm in the city’.

“For 90 minutes, I turned off and just enjoyed playing football, very good emotions, very warm emotions, and I feel proud because of that.

If football is back in Ukraine, it is not yet football as Stepanenko and his team-mates once knew it.

The game was played behind closed doors with the clubs allowed to advertise the kick-off time, but on military instructions, not the venue in advance, and the players, staff and officials all had access to air-raid shelters in the event that sirens sounded.

I pray every day and I hope that my country and our people will win this war and our families come back to our homes.

Shakhtar Donetsk skipper Taras Stepanenko

Stepanenko said: “I have waited for this day since the day we started preparation for the championship and I was a little bit nervous.

“But when I heard our anthem, when I saw my team-mates, the opponents, I was proud of my country and I was happy that we started our championship because it’s important for our country and for our people.

“We already have had a war for six months and I don’t know, maybe tomorrow it will stop, but maybe it could be one year. I don’t know.

“But I pray every day and I hope that my country and our people will win this war and our families come back to our homes. It’s very important, it’s my dream and I pray for this every day.”

Shakhtar’s marketing director Alex Mamalyha is hoping football’s return after a 183-day absence can bring a little light relief to a nation which has suffered so much.

Mamalyha said: “Every day, the first thing most people do, they just click the news, go to the websites, see the news and that really puts pressure on top of everybody.

“Hopefully we will be able to provide a bit of an escape from the current circumstances.”

As a club, Shakhtar have become accustomed to adversity having being forced to move from their home in the Donbas region by Russian military action in 2014 before the Covid-19 pandemic took its toll, although their resilience has given them confidence they can ride out whatever storm comes their way.

Mamalyha said: “At this moment in time, I think nothing is going to surprise us in the future – apart from alien invasion, I guess. I’m struggling to find something which would put us on the back foot in the future.

“The worst things that could have happened, they are happening, so it’s a tough thing, but we’ve always tried to stay positive and make the most out of the situation.”

The return of the UPL was accompanied by the launch of global charity ‘Pitch in for Ukraine’ which seeks to provide funds for humanitarian aid, including shelter and access to medical assistance, in the country via UNITED24, the official fundraising platform of the President Volodymyr Zelensky, the FC Shakhtar Social Foundation, the Saving Lives Foundation and the Kyiv School of Economics.

Football fans are being invited to donate £15 in return for a personalised square of digital versions of the league’s pitches with Shakhtar’s Donbas Arena, which has been divided into 154,000 ‘Pixel of the Pitch’ sections or “PoPs”, the first to be offered.

Details are available at

Pitch In For Ukraine: donation collection has started

Charity project to help Ukraine and Ukrainians starts together with the new football season

On August 23 Shakhtar start 2022/23 UPL season with match against Metalist 1925 in Kyiv. It will be the first competitive fixture to be held in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

The fixture will also see the launch of donations for Pitch In For Ukraine, an associated fundraising campaign for humanitarian aid to Ukraine and Ukrainians.

Proceeds will be sent to fund official programmes of UNITED24 platform, the Shakhtar Social, the Saving Lives Foundation and the KSE Foundation. Donations will be used for creation of safety, shelter and access to medical provision for Ukrainians.

Fans who donate to the Pitch In For Ukraine will be rewarded with digital art PoPs (Pixels of Pitch) of the Donbass Arena, the home stadium of FC Shakhtar in Donetsk. Each official PoP is engraved with the donator’s name and a unique edition number.

The digital version of the Donbass Arena pitch has created 154,000 PoPs. Amount of donations starts from GBP 15 (UAH 750) securing a Bronze PoP. website details all the Ukrainian clubs involved and how to donate.

The donation platform for the FC Shakhtar Donetsk Donbass Arena PoP goes live on August 23, 2022 at 13:00 Kyiv time.

Pitch In For Ukraine Partner, Fc Shakhtar Donetsk, Opens The UPL Today From Kyiv After 183 Days Of Football Suspension By The War

• New Ukrainian Premier League begins today on 23 August 2022
• Match to be played day before Ukraine Independence Day
• Interviews with FC Shakhtar from Kyiv, Ukraine National Stadium, available

Today, FC Shakhtar Donetsk will kick off the 2022/23 Ukrainian Premier League (UPL) season against Metalist 1925 Kharkiv in Kyiv.

The match will be the first competitive fixture to be held in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February.

Shakhtar Donetsk played a friendly match against AS Roma in Italy on 7 August as part of their Global Peace Tour.

Today’s game (KO 13:00 CET) will be played behind closed doors and amid tight security.

The fixture will also see the launch of donations for Pitch In For Ukraine, an associated campaign, to open to raise funds for humanitarian aid.

Pitch In For Ukraine is a way for football fans to continue the support shown to people in Ukraine who remain embattled in a fight for survival.

Backed by a raft of leading EPL footballers and well-known influencers, Pitch In For Ukraine, has been created to making a meaningful difference. Proceeds from the campaign will support fundraising efforts which enable partners to continue with humanitarian aid across the war-torn country.

The Pitch In For Ukraine official aid partners are:
● UNITED24, the official fundraising platform of the President of Ukraine
● FC Shakhtar Social Foundation
● The Saving Lives Foundation
● The Kyiv School of Economics

Donations are used to fund official programmes that are creating safety, shelter and access to medical provision.

As part of an innovative digital offer, fans who donate to Pitch In For Ukraine will receive a PoP as a thank you for their generosity. Pixel of the Pitch (PoP) is a digital square, and a fan keepsake, of the pitch from the UPL’s stadiums. Each official PoP is engraved with the donor’s name and a unique edition number.

The Donbass Arena – FC Shakhtar Donetsk’s traditional home ground – will be the first stadium captured as a PoP. The digital version of the Donbass Arena pitch has created 154,000 PoPs. A £15 donation (18 euros) secures a Bronze PoP.

The Pitch In For Ukraine website details all the Ukrainian clubs involved and how to donate at

The donation platform for the FC Shakhtar Donetsk Donbass Arena PoP goes live on 23 August 2022 at 10:00 BST/ 12:00 CET.


Notes to Editors
Images, pictures, film, POV interviews or voice recordings can be provided. This includes footage from the FC Shakhtar fixture to take place on the 23rd August and also with AS Roma on 7th August 2022.

See FC Shakhtar Donetsk arriving to Kyiv at the weekend here:

New content can be provided as required. To arrange studio or remote interviews with representatives from FC Shakhtar Donetsk, and other supporters of the campaign, please contact:

Louise Holland, Communications Director for Pitch In for Ukraine, at [email protected] in the first instance or WhatsApp/Call: UK +44 (0) 795 141 6845.

Pitch In For Ukraine: FC Shakhtar and UNITED24 humanitarian project

FC Shakhtar and UNITED24 platform announce launch of fundraising programme to help Ukrainians

Football fans have come to the fore in supporting the people of Ukraine since the war began on February 24, 2022. As the country continues to battle against the Russian aggression, a new fundraising programme, Pitch In For Ukraine, has been formed among the international football community. This project will make it possible for football fans all over the world to pitch in for support of Ukrainians.

FC Shakhtar CEO Sergei Palkin:

– FC Shakhtar has been using own forces and resources to help Ukraine with its battle and to support Ukrainians affected by the fighting since the first day of the full-scale war. The club launched a series of charity initiatives supported by our friends and partners that have already made it possible to raise substantial funds to help the army and civilians. We use any possibility to raise money for people in need. Pitch In For Ukraine is an ambitious humanitarian project, by means of which we hope to accumulate large resources to help Ukraine, Ukrainian children and all people affected by the Russian aggression. Join the project and pitch in for peace in Ukraine. Together we can do more! Together we will win!

Fans who participate in Pitch In For Ukraine are rewarded with digital art PoPs. A “PoP” stands for Pixel of Pitch and represents a part of the pitch of the Donbass Arena, the home stadium of FC Shakhtar in Donetsk. The Donbass Arena pitch offers 154,000 PoPs based on six donation levels for football fans to choose from starting from the amount of £15. Each PoP features the name of the donator and a unique PoP number, along with exclusive fan content for the 2022/23 football season.

All proceeds raised through Pitch In For Ukraine will be used for humanitarian aid provision and support of Ukrainian families displaced and affected by the ongoing war. Proceeds will be directly used by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s foundation UNITED24, along with the Shakhtar Social, the Saving Lives Foundation and the KSE Foundation.

Pitch In For Ukraine website,, is already available and contains all news regarding the ways the international football community supports Ukraine, as well as detailed formation on Donbass Arena PoP collectibles.

The launch of the project is on August 23 at 20:00 Kyiv time.

Soccer helps fund humanitarian aid in Ukraine: Donors get ‘Pixel of the Pitch’

Soccer fans are tribal animals. They can make life miserable for opposing players, coaches and fans.
But when times get tough – a player is seriously injured, or disaster strikes an entire team – entire stadiums come together, in support.
The time has come to “Pitch In for Ukraine.”
That’s the clever, memorable name of an international effort to raise funds for the embattled country. The official start is Aug. 23: Ukraine’s National Flag Day, and opening day for the nation’s top professional league.
As the war against Russian invaders continues, the return of soccer is expected to give an emotional lift to the entire nation. Pitch In organizers hope donations to relief efforts will give a financial lift too.
The concept is simple. Fans around the globe visit the website There are six tiers of donations, from $18 and 18 euros to $600 and 600 euros. Donors receive an official PoP (Pixel of the Pitch) — digital art with the name of the donor and a unique number, plus special surprises sent by email. Each PoP is 22 centimeters square.
The first stadium to offer digital squares is Donbass Arena, home of FC Shakhtar. FC Mariupol – in a city under siege by Russian forces since February – follows on Sept. 3. The program will eventually include all 16 Ukrainian Premier League stadiums, as well as the national team and its home site in Kyiv. There are 154,000 PoPs per arena.
The primary recipient of funds collected is United 24’s medical aid program, an initiative of President Volodymyr Zelensky. The other recipients are the Kyiv School of Economics Charitable Foundation, and two groups working with children and orphans: the Sports Foundation of FC Shakhtar Donetsk, and the Humanitarian Foundation of SCM.
The drive kicked off Aug. 7 at Roma, where Shakhtar played its first friendly since the war shut down all Ukrainian soccer. Shakhtar players marched out of the tunnel, wearing “Pitch in for Ukraine” shirts. The project logo was shown prominently throughout the match. Social media posts are also part of the launch.
Most teams in the Ukrainian league may be unfamiliar to soccer fans, but Ukrainian players have made their mark internationally. According to Louise Holland, communications director at Pitch In for Ukraine, that’s helped bridge the distance between the war-torn nation, and supporters of teams in the top European leagues.
“It was very emotional when the Shakhtar players came on the pitch,” says Holland, who is based in London. “Football is often club versus club, but at times like this, the football world comes together.”

By Dan Woog @danwoog, 18-August-2022
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