Ukrainian female soccer pros find new training ground in Germany - Reuters UK - 2 minutes read
Players of the Ukrainian female soccer team of FC Kryvbas, who fled following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, attend a training session at the FC Cologne training grounds in Cologne, Germany, March 23, 2022. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen
BERLIN, March 24 (Reuters) - A semi-professional female soccer team that fled the war in Ukraine has found shelter and a new training ground at the German Bundesliga club 1.FC Cologne.
The team will coach other amateur or professional Ukrainian athletes stranded in Cologne, 1.FC Cologne Foundation member Thorsten Friedrich told Reuters in an interview.
"Every large refugee centre currently consists of 95% women with children of all ages, and these children could enjoy soccer training. That's the vision we have," Friedrich said.
Most of the women at FC Kryvbas are full-time professionals but some are still students, and they all found it hard to leave behind their loved ones hiding in bomb shelters amid flying rockets and wailing sirens.
"But the club leadership is doing everything possible so that we can train here in peace. They try to keep us away from all kinds of bad news and sometimes they succeed," said 17-year-old player Ruslana Levchenko.
The evacuation started after Artur Podkopayev, a Ukrainian translator living in Germany since 2016 who used to play for FC Kryvbas, asked the foundation to help the women. He now acts as their translator.
"The faces you are seeing now cannot possibly be compared to the faces when they arrived here. On their first day, you saw empty looks, you saw fear and on the first day, the women also cried. But after all the good experiences, they are smiling again," Podkopayev said.
"Well, I’m very happy we've come here," 27-year-old player Liubov Mozgha told Reuters in an interview. "But I definitely can’t say that football is my priority right now. My priority is peace in our country because the functioning of our club directly depends on that."
Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Zuzanna Szymanska. Editing by Gerry Doyle
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