Ukraine’s most successful soccer club Shakhtar Donetsk, which won its 13th national championship title this summer, has been forced to self-isolate after two of its players tested positive for COVID-19.
Goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov and midfielder Taras Stepanenko — both also play for the national soccer team of Ukraine — have tested positive for COVID-19, the club announced on Oct. 4.
Apart from the two players, two employees of the club — a fitness coach and a masseur — have also contracted the novel coronavirus. They all tested positive after the match between Shakhtar and Desna held in Chernihiv, a city 150 kilometers north of Kyiv.
According to the website of Shakhtar, all players and coaches will “undergo additional testing” on Oct. 6–8, and after this, the club will decide on “further actions.”
Currently, it’s unknown if the club will be able to play its next match against soccer club Lviv on Oct. 17. According to Andriy Burlakov, press person at Shakhtar, the club did tests today and results will be tomorrow, while repeated tests are expected on Oct.8 with results on the next day.
“Only after that there will be clarity regarding the further preparation in matches in Ukrainian Premier League and the League of Champions,” said Burlakov the Kyiv Post.
Owned by oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, the country’s wealthiest man, the Shakhtar soccer club entered top 10 clubs in Europe in 2019 in terms of earning money on the transfer market — the club has earned a lot by buying players cheap and selling them high.
Having spent 55.6 million euros on new players over the past five years, the club has earned three times more by selling its players. This includes a 59-million-euro agreement with British club Manchester United on Brazil midfielder Fred in 2018.
The two infected players, Pyatov and Stepanenko, were supposed to join the national soccer team on Oct. 5 and participate in a friendly match against France on Oct. 7 at the Stade de France stadium in Saint-Denis, northern suburbs of Paris. They will have to skip the game.
“The national team of Ukraine starts the October training camp in conditions that can be called unprecedented,” stated the Ukrainian Association of Football on Oct. 5 on its website.
Andriy Shevchenko, manager of the national team, urgently decided to replace Pyatov and Stepanenko with other players from Dynamo and Oleksandriya soccer clubs. Overall, the national team lacks 12 players, who are either injured or have coronavirus.
After the friendly match against France, Ukraine will play two games of the League of Nations, biennial international football competition, against national teams of Germany (Oct. 10) and Spain (Oct. 13).
While Ukraine’s number of detected daily coronavirus cases grows rapidly reaching up to 4,600, Kyiv authorities decided to allow soccer fans to visit stadiums during the international matches.
However, the occupancy of stadiums should not exceed 30%, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced on Oct. 5 on his Telegram.
“Kyiv agreed with the Ukrainian Football Association’s proposal to hold international matches under the auspices of UEFA in the presence of fans in the stands,” Klitschko wrote.
At the same time, in Germany stadiums can be filled up to 20% of their capacity, while in Spain it’s still unclear when fans will be allowed to visit stadiums at all. Meanwhile, Kyiv is about to host three matches so far – between youth national teams of Ukraine and Romania (Oct. 9), League of Nations’s game between national teams of Germany and Ukraine (Oct. 13), and between Spanish and Ukrainian national teams (Oct. 13).
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