Ukrainian women’s soccer club adjusts to life in Germany

COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — On the day Russian troops surged into Ukraine a month ago, the players of women’s soccer club FC Kryvbas were heading to the airport on their way to a training camp and games in Turkey.

They had to abort the trip as Russian missile strikes hit their home city of Krivyi Rih.

The players are now living and training in Germany with support from Cologne, a soccer club with teams in the men’s and women’s Bundesliga competitions.

The players and staff of Kryvbas have managed to stay together, but focusing on training is far from easy.

“I am very glad we arrived here with all our team, that we managed to keep the team. But honestly speaking I cannot say that football is a priority for me now,” Kryvbas midfielder Liubov Mozga said Wednesday at training. “Peace on our land is a priority for me now.”

Kryvbas had booked a training camp with two friendly games in the Turkish resort city of Belek starting Feb. 24, and the players were looking forward to meeting up with teammates who had been away on duty with the Ukrainian national team.

Kryvbas coach Alina Stetenco’s thoughts were on modernizing fitness training and recovery, and signing new Ukrainian and foreign players to fill out a young squad in the process of a rebuild, she said on social media the day before.

The players were already on the bus when rocket strikes hit the city. They took refuge in a hotel and ended up staying there for two weeks. The players eventually made their way to Germany with the help of Artur Podkopayev, a former player for the Kryvbas men’s youth teams who was living in the country and asked Cologne for help.

Now the players are staying in a hotel in Cologne which has been converted to house refugees, and they’re able to use their host club’s modern training facilities. Kryvbas was third in the Ukrainian league when the war began and competitions were suspended. It’s not clear when they could resume.

Kryvbas captain Anna Ivanova said she can’t adapt to life in Germany while her family remains in danger at home.

“Being here in a secure place, while your family is under shelling is very difficult,” Ivanova said. “We are worried for our families. They are in touch, they are hiding in bomb shelters. Unfortunately there are missiles flying, the sirens turn on, so their nights are not quiet. Same way, our nights aren’t quiet as well.”

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