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Shakhtar vow to return to ravaged Donetsk

10 October 2014, 10:27

London - Exiled Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk intend to return to their conflict-scarred home city as soon as it becomes safe to do so, a club official told AFP on Thursday.

A bloody conflict between government forces and pro-Russian rebels has forced Shakhtar to set up a training base in Kiev and play their home matches in Lviv, which is around 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from Donetsk.

Fighting continues to claim lives in Donetsk, despite a ceasefire agreed last month, but Shakhtar remain hopeful that they will be able to return before too long.

"As the club, it's important for us to go back as a catalyst for everything else," Shakhtar marketing director Joe Palmer told AFP at the Leaders Sport Business Summit in London.

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"It would be easy for us to stay away and perhaps find financial success, because obviously it will be very difficult back in the east, but I think it's important for us to go back as a club.

"Symbolically as well. For hope, for people to find some sort of social leadership."

Asked whether he thought Shakhtar could possibly return within the next two years, Palmer replied: "In the next two years, certainly. Possibly, if a resolution comes quickly, we could be in for next season (2015-16)."

He added: "What we are understanding is that we can't just keep waiting around for the situation to change and for us to be able to go back.

"We have to just knuckle down where we are and start moving forward. And if we do get the chance to go back, then brilliant."

Bankrolled by billionaire president Rinat Akhmetov, Shakhtar have dislodged Dynamo Kiev as the dominant force in Ukrainian football in recent years.

Based at the Donbass Arena, which hosted five matches during the 2012 European Championship, the club lifted the UEFA Cup in 2009 and have won the last five league titles in succession.

Palmer said the club would ask UEFA for "dispensation" from the European governing body's Financial Fair Play rules, but he accepted that it would take the club a long time to undo the damage caused by the conflict.

"It's not just the superficial cost, the damage that certain things are going to cost," he said.

"The fact is, whenever we have a political resolution in Ukraine, we're going to have three or four years of economic hardship afterwards.

"In a sense, you could say that's costing the club as well, because we'd come so far. We'd grown, we'd doubled revenues in three or four years, we were really moving forward, the city was moving forward.

"We had a KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) hockey club in the city and more hotels. And then suddenly, bang. Overnight, it was just cut down. And that was really, really sad to see."



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