Ukrainian champ Shakhtar Donetsk to host Champions League games in Germany at Schalke’s stadium

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) — Ukrainian champion Shakhtar Donetsk will play its “home” Champions League games at German club Schalke next season, both clubs said on Tuesday.

Shakhtar will play its four home games in the new-look league stage at the 62,000-capacity Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen. Schalke said the agreement also covers any further knockout games.

The stadium held four games at the European Championship, including England’s 2-1 win over Slovakia in the round of 16 on Sunday.

Shakhtar hasn’t been able to play European games in Ukraine since the Russian invasion in 2022. It held games in the German city of Hamburg last season and the Polish capital Warsaw before that.

“We are glad to hold our UEFA Champions League matches at one of the best stadiums in Germany,” Shakhtar chief executive Serhii Palkin said in a statement.

“The positive experience of the last season shows that Shakhtar has a strong support of the fans in this country – both local residents and Ukrainian refugees. This factor is of great importance to our club.”

Shakhtar hasn’t been able to play in its home city of Donetsk — which is part of territory that Russia has illegally annexed — since it was taken over in 2014 by Russia-backed separatists. Shakhtar held European games elsewhere in Ukraine until the 2022 invasion. It also continues to play in the Ukrainian league, where games are played in empty stadiums without spectators.

In a video announcing the move to Schalke’s stadium, Shakhtar underlined the shared coal-mining heritage of Gelsenkirchen and Donetsk. At the Arena AufSchalke, players emerge onto the field from a tunnel modeled to look like a rough-hewn mineshaft.

“Almost like home,” an inscription in Shakhtar’s video said.

For Schalke, hosting a Ukrainian team is a contrast to its longtime ties with Russian state gas company Gazprom. It was the club’s major sponsor until 2022, when Schalke removed Gazprom’s logo from its jerseys following the invasion. Schalke plays in the German second division amid long-running financial problems.


AP Euro 2024:

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