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Why don’t Shakhtar play their Champions League home games at Donetsk? Where do they play?

Shakhtar Donetsk play host to reigning European champions Real Madrid on Tuesday - at a stadium they are renting, 966 km away from their home.

Soccer Football - Champions League - Group F - Shakhtar Donetsk v Celtic - Stadion Wojska Polskiego, Warsaw, Poland - September 14, 2022 Shakhtar Donetsk's Mykhailo Mudryk celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

For Shakhtar Donetsk, the past eight years have been the most unsettling of the club’s 86-year history - because of issues off the field rather than on it. Since 2014, they have had the inconvenience of having to play their home games at another club’s stadium, almost 1000 kilometres from their Donbass home.

Shakhtar moved into their new, purpose-built Donbass Arena - a category five, Elite stadium based on UEFA’s stadium infrastructure regulations, in August 2009. But by February 2014, after just five and a half years playing at their 52,000-seater ground, the club was forced to look elsewhere due to the escalating Russo-Ukrainian conflict.

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Shakhtar up sticks

By the spring of 2014, it had become too dangerous to hold games at the Donbass Arena and on 25 April, Shakhtar beat Mariupol 3-1 at home to lift the title. It would be the last time they would play at their stadium. The following month the Ukrainian Football Association decided that Shahktar should abandon their Donetsk base and play all further home games at Lviv Arena, some 966 km to the west.

As league champions, the club had also qualified for the following season’s Champions League. UEFA, like the UAF, agreed that all of the club’s home games during the tournament should be played in Lviv. That summer, Shakhtar set up temporary headquarters in Kyiv. It turned out to be a wise move - the Donbass Arena suffered damage during fighting between national forces and separatists in August and was rocked by an explosion when a missile landed nearby  in October.

Kharkiv and Kyiv

At the start of 2017, Shakhtar were on the move again, with home games being played at   the 40-seater Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv, 250 kilometres northwest of Donetsk. Despite being closer to home, attendance figures dropped and when the coronavirus pandemic shook the world in 2020, Shakhtar were confined to Kyiv, playing all of their games at the Olympiyskiy national sports complex.

Champions League games in Warsaw

Shakhtar signed a one-year lease agreement with Legia Warsaw to use their Municipal Stadium (Stadion Wojska Polskiego) in the Polish capital for all of their Champions League home games this season. It will be in Warsaw where they will welcome the defending European champions Real Madrid in Matchday 4 of the Champions League later this evening.

Both teams go into the game with Madrid top of Group F on nine points and needing just a win to mathematically guarantee their place in the next round. Hosts Shakhtar are just behind in second on four points and will take on Leipzig in their final home game of the group stage in Warsaw on 2 November.


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