“We are playing for Ukraine”: Soccer club CEO discusses the challenges of playing during wartime

"We are playing for Ukraine": Soccer club CEO discusses the challenges of playing during wartime

Ukrainian soccer club Shakhtar Donetsk on Monday launched a $25 million project to support the defenders of Mariupol and their families.

The “Heart of Azovstal” initiative comes after the club sold star player Mykhailo Mudryk to English Premier League side Chelsea. Azovstal is a reference to the massive steelworks plant in Mariupol, where Ukrainians held off Russian forces during a monthlong siege last year until they were eventually forced to evacuate.

“The money will be used to cover different needs – from providing medical and prosthetic treatment and psychological support to meeting specific requests,” Shakhtar president Rinat Akhmetov said.

The club will receive a Ukrainian record-breaking transfer fee of $75 million for 22-year-old Mudryk with an additional $35 million expected as a bonus payment, the club said in a statement Sunday.

Shakhtar CEO Sergei Palkin talks with CNN.
Shakhtar CEO Sergei Palkin talks with CNN. (CNN)

CNN World Sport’s Don Riddell caught up with Shakhtar CEO Sergei Palkin, who described the challenges of playing football during a war.

“For player’s it’s difficult because, I mean, almost all players living without families because families living abroad — some kind of safety areas — and therefore it’s difficult from psychological point of view because when you have war in a country it’s difficult to to concentrate, it’s difficult to play football because, you know, when you’re home, you have problems, big problems, you know, dying people, a lot of people and it’s difficult to concentrate,” Palkin said.

He continued, “We understood, what we are doing on the pitch, it’s because… in support of our people, of our refugees, of our Ukrainian army and because of them.”

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