Highlights on Off The Ball

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Highlights on Off The Ball


Real Madrid, war, shakhtar donetsk and playing in the Champions League

Adam Crafton explains the devastating stress that Shakhtar Donetsk players dealt with during their Champions League campaign.

Adam Crafton joined Joe Molloy on The Football Show to discuss Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Athletic's Adam Crafton has a new podcast series behind the scenes at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Donetsk became a club of note when they didn't want to this year because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. While the war rages on in Ukraine and sporadically in Kyiv, the Shakhtar Donetsk players play their league games and European football too.

It comes at great stress to them. Not only do they have to go to great lengths to play their games in Europe in terms of travel, but they also live their day-to-day lives under the strain of the war.

Crafton recalled one particularly difficult juxtaposition when Donetsk faced Real Madrid in the Champions League.

"Against Real Madrid at home, they were within about 10 seconds of winning that game," Crafton said.

"It ended 1-1. Rudiger equalized in the last minute. That performance that night was probably one of the most extraordinary performances I've seen live. And the context to that is that same week...the weekend before that game there was the explosion at the Crimea bridge.

"As a result of that, Putin launched these retaliatory strikes on Kyiv on the Monday. That was the first time for five or six months that Kyiv had come under fire."

Donetsk faced Real Madrid, Celtic and RB Leipzig. They ultimately finished third, ahead of Celtic but losing out to Leipzig on the final day of the group. Their European journey will continue but it will do so in the Europa League.

Considering the context of their displays, that in itself is an amazing achievement.

"I remember that day going into the Shakhtar team hotel for breakfast. We'd woken up that morning to see the news of the explosions. The whole mood of that squad from the night before when they were quite optimistic, the general soundings from them all were quite positive.

"And then all of a sudden they wake up to literally bombing the playground, the central park, rail stations, university buildings...ridiculous, indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas.

"You walk in, you see these players checking their phones. Just waiting for a call from family, from friends, telling them they're alive and they're okay. It wasn't just Kyiv that day, it was all across the country."

Eddie Howe has no shame.


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