In the spring of 2014, Shakhtar Donetsk played its last home game in the Donbass Arena in the eastern Ukrainian metropolis. The stadium, rated by UEFA in the highest five-star category and with a capacity of almost 52,000, was the pride of the entire region. After the Olympic Stadium in the capital Kiev, the Donbass Arena is the second largest stadium in the country. Built for the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, the arena opened on September 19, 2009. Shakhtar beat Obolon Kiev 4-0, and it looked like a golden future for the club and stadium.
Five games were played at the Donbass Arena at the 2012 European Championship, including the semi-final between Spain and Portugal (4:2 a.o.). But two years later, the splendor of the European Championship was no longer noticeable. The stadium was badly damaged in fighting between Ukrainian units and Russian separatists in August 2014. But the conflict in the Donbass region had already reached football before.
Where has Shakhtar been playing since 2014?
Due to the conflict, Shakhtar had already decided not to play its home games in Donetsk and moved to Lviv in western Ukraine at the start of the 2014/15 season. Since then, the Donbass Arena has been lying idle. The damage to the facade and supporting structure has now been repaired and the playing field is ready for use again, but the conflict in Donbass continues unabated.
The arena has since been used as a center for the distribution of relief supplies; Shakhtar and football have not returned to this day, although there have been plans to do so in the meantime. Shakhtar played its league home games in Lviv in the 2014/15, 2015/16 and the first half of the 2016/17 season. For the second half of the season, it was decided to move to Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, which is much closer to Donetsk and where spectator interest is higher than in Lviv.
In May 2020, Shakhtar moved to the capital Kiev and plays its home games, like its big rival Dynamo Kiev and the national team, in the Olympic Stadium. After the Russian attack on Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Shakhtar played its home games in the 2022/23 Champions League season in the Polish capital Warsaw. Now the top Ukrainian club is coming to Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion and with them the Champions League.
Warsaw was out of the question as an alternative venue again this season because Legia Warsaw takes part in the Conference League and the stadium is therefore already used for international games. In Germany, in addition to Hamburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen were also under discussion – also home to second division teams with large stadiums. But ultimately the decision fell on the metropolis in the north. Before the games in Hamburg, Shakhtar Donetsk will train on the HSV amateur training grounds before heading to the large stadium for the games.
The anthem of the premier class will be played at least three times during Shakhtar’s home games in the group phase in the Volksparkstadion. The Ukrainians’ first opponent is FC Porto on September 19th in Hamburg. With FC Barcelona, a real European top-class player is coming to the Hanseatic city on November 7th. The HSV fans will then look at “their stadium” with mixed feelings. It’s been a long time since the second division club had their own home games in the Champions League; HSV last played in the Champions League in the 2006/07 season and was eliminated in the group phase.
What role does HSV play?
Since then, Hamburg has been waiting for the return of the premier class. Now it exists, just without HSV on the pitch. Behind the scenes, however, the club is involved in organizing the games. “HSV is responsible for the entire organizational implementation of the match days in the Volksparkstadion for the Ukrainians, and ticket sales are also handled by HSV,” says the website of the second division club, which also wants to specifically appeal to its own fans with the Shakhtar games . Season ticket holders and members had the right of first refusal on tickets for the three group games against Porto, Antwerp and Barcelona until the end of August.
“We are very grateful that HSV, the city and the stadium management helped us so professionally and at such a high level,” said Donetsk’s commercial manager, Dmytro Kyrylenko, to “Sport Bild.” As with everyone’s international home games For clubs in Germany, the city pays for the police operation, but none of the games have been classified as high-risk games by UEFA. The security service, VIP support and other stadium operational tasks are taken over by HSV. The stadium must be converted in accordance with the complex UEFA statutes and may only have seats. This reduces the capacity of the Volksparkstadion from around 57,000 to around 51,000 seats.
However, both clubs did not provide any information about the distribution of income between HSV and Shakhtar Donetsk, but HSV will reportedly receive up to 1.5 million euros in additional income. The club also announced that with every ticket purchase there is the option to pay an additional donation of one, three or five euros “to help those suffering from the war in Ukraine.”
Which guests are expected?
Hamburg’s first mayor Peter Tschentscher (SPD) will probably be there at one or more of the extraordinary games in “his” city. A visit by Tschentscher’s predecessor as head of the city of Hamburg, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, will also be discussed.
In addition to well-known faces of Hamburg’s local celebrities, two men with close ties to the Hanseatic city could also be there: The mayor of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, Vitali Klitschko and his younger brother Wladimir were under contract with the Hamburg boxing stable Universum during their careers as professional boxers. In November 1996 both made their professional debuts in the Hanseatic city. The brothers’ joint marketing agency “Klitschko Management Group GmbH” is based in Hamburg; Vitali Klitschko’s ex-wife has lived in the Hanseatic city with their children since she left Ukraine as a result of the Russian attack.