Shakhtar Donetsk today took part in the final of the UEFA Youth League against Chelsea at the Colovray Sports Centre, Nyon and despite going down 3:2 against the English side; it has been a fantastic campaign for the Young Miners. Shakhtar were unbeaten throughout the tournament up until the final and their achievements have not been overlooked. With all the doom and gloom in the Donetsk region, the success in the Youth League has certainly been a positive in dark times for the club.
With the ongoing conflict in Donbas, Shakhtars future has been called into question. The Ukrainian champions have been forced out of their home at the Donbas Arena and are now based in Kyiv while playing the majority of their home games in Lviv. There has been constant speculation with regards to the future of their star imports and the future of long serving manager Mircea Lucescu has also been called into question.
Shakhtar are funded by the billionaire oligarch Rinat Akhmetov and using his money, they have bought some of the hottest talent in Brazil and brought them to Donetsk. The current conflict in Eastern Ukraine has made Shakhtar a less attractive proposition for perspective signings and therefore Shakhtar may be forced to look elsewhere going forward.
The Shakhtar team which reached the EYL final is an encouraging proposition for the future of The Miners. There is an exciting pool of home grown talent which could serve well for Shakhtar going forward. Mykola Matvienko has been a rock in the Shakhtar defence as they have tried to play a disciplined game and build up possession from the back. Despite not starting in the final, Viktor Kovalenko is a star of the team, a goal scoring midfielder who can play behind the strikers or even alongside them; he has scored and created goals for Shakhtar throughout the competition. He has already made first team appearances for Shakhtar and has been capped for Ukraines youth sides and there are high hopes for the Kherson born player. It was Denys Arendaruks pace which set up Shakhtar’s goal in the final and he has the potential to progress and be an asset for Shakhtar for years to come.
Shakhtar traditionally only play with one front man and in the tournament the goals have been shared around the squad, Vasyl Shtander and Viktor Kovalenko have been the top scorers with four goals each but there are a host of players on three goals including Andriy Boryachuk and Oleksandr Zubkov.
If Shakhtar can no longer rely on importing talent from Brazil, they need to look no further than their own youth system for solid foundations for a bright future for Shakhtar Donetsk. The success in the Youth League is a big boost not only for the club but for Ukrainian football as a whole. The hope will be that the player’s progress and can perform at the highest level in the professional ranks for both club and country.
Article by Peter Chymera, Vice-President of the UK Ukrainian Sports Supporters Club and Co-founder of the Viktor Leonenko Hall of Fame. Follow Peter on twitter – @PMChymera89