UPL back amid boots-on-ground scene


Ukrainian football league returned behind closed doors Image: Arup

The Ukrainian Premier League (UPL) (Ukraine) has returned with bomb shelters and air raid sirens fitted at stadiums to protect the players.

‘Daily Star’ stated that the top-flight clubs FC Shakhtar Donetsk and the FC Metalist 1925 Kharkiv played out a goalless draw in the first match of the new season on August 23rd, with a total of four matches played on the opening day in Kyiv’s empty Olympic Stadium on August 23rd.

The Ukrainian Premier League or UPL is the highest division of Ukrainian annual football championship.

The 75,000-capacity Olympic National Sports Complex is a multiuse sports and recreation facility in Kyiv, Ukraine, located on the slopes of the City’s central Cherepanova Hora, Pecherskyi District.

Football Club Shakhtar Donetsk is a Ukrainian professional football club from the City of Donetsk in Ukraine. In 2014, due to the Russo-Ukrainian War, the club was forced to move to Lviv, and had played matches in Lviv (2014-2016) and in Kharkiv (2017-2020) whilst having its office headquarters and training facilities in Kyiv. In May 2020, Shakhtar started to play home matches at the Olympic National Sports Complex in Kyiv, Ukraine.

The Football Club Metalist 1925 Kharkiv is a professional football club from Kharkiv, Ukraine. It was founded in 2016. The club plays in the Ukrainian Premier League. Their home stadium is the 40,003-capacity Metalist Oblast Sports Complex in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

‘Daily Star’ further stated that the previous campaign had to be canceled in February following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, starting a six-month spell without domestic football in Ukraine.

Although some clubs have been in European action already this season, the new league campaign is now underway, with four matches played on August 23rd before further fixtures on August 24th and August 25th this week.

Fans are absent from matches, though, with games being played behind closed doors due to the threat of ongoing Russian attacks. Stadiums have also been fitted with bomb shelters and air raid sirens in order to protect players, coaches and officials.

Explained Andriy Pavelko, President, Football Federation of Ukraine, “This will be a unique competition: It will happen during a war, during military aggression, during bombardments.”

It is understood that members of the military were integral to the push for football to return in Ukraine, along with the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The former striker and the Ukrainian Association Football Manager, Andriy Shevchenko, stated, “It’s very important for the people, for the rest of the world – we can send the message that Ukraine is there. Even if we’re at war inside the country, we are going to fight because we want to also live like normal countries, normal lives.”

Ukrainian football journalist Andrew Todos added, “Mainly based on the fact that the whole point of the UPL returning and football in Ukraine in general is for the fact that to show a sign of defiance and the fact that Ukraine is continuing. Surviving in the day-to-day life and the things that they can get up to so that people can enjoy watching professional sport, just as people in Russia are continuing to do so because they don’t have the imminent threat of missiles and all this kind of stuff that they put on Ukraine on a daily basis.”

Added Todos, “Luckily, at the stadium today (August 23rd), there weren’t any air raid sirens so the game actually went on with no problems.”

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