Shakhtar Donetsk start ‘peace’ tour to mixed reaction

Wearing shirts bearing the names of Ukrainian cities that have resisted Russian troops and slogans demanding “Stop War,” Shakhtar Donetsk and Olympiakos met Saturday in friendly match, the first stop on the Football for Peace Tour.

Around 5,000 spectators, including a few hundred Ukrainian fans, saw the Greek team win 1-0.

With tickets selling for €10 ($10.88), all proceeds were donated to charities helping the millions of Ukrainians who have fled their embattled country.

Toys, which will be donated to refugee children, were placed in hundreds of seats inside Karaiskaki Stadium.

However, the match was boycotted by Olympiakos supporter group “Gate 7.”

“This particular war that started in 2014 has been stigmatized by crimes from both sides and must stop. Our timeless ties with other teams do not allow us to be in favour of one side or the other,” the group said in a statement.

Despite that note of discord, officials were keen to stress the symbolism of the game.

“We are proud to host this event to raise awareness of the war. We use football as a tool for peace,” Olympiakos sporting director and former France international Christian Karembeu said.

“We want to talk about war and peace in Ukraine in these matches. The need to end this madness and return to normal life and to rebuild the country,” said Sergei Palkin, general manager of Shakhtar.

A moment of silence for the victims of the war took place before the match and Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias attended, saying it was significant for the Ukrainian team to start their tour in Greece.

“Tonight we are sending a message against the war,” said communications director of Olympiakos, Nikos Gavalas.

Shakhtar will continue their tour on April 14 in Gdansk, Poland, against Lehya, on April 19 in Istanbul against Fenerbahce and May 1 in Split, Croatia, against Hajduk.

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