This team, which was formed again, was not only aiming to participate in the league, but it went beyond it to higher goals, the main of which is to remind the world that the city of Mariupol is Ukrainian and that Moscow annexed it.
Almost a year ago, Russian forces attacked and occupied the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, the coastal city that became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance at the time, because the Russian army was superior in arms and numbers to the Ukrainian army, but the latter showed exceptional resistance to which the world raised its hat.
The city was overthrown after two months of resistance, and with it the Mariupol women’s soccer team.
The war dispersed the team members, but five of them refused to surrender and formed a new team in Kiev, which included new players from different Ukrainian cities.
However, the goal was not only to participate in the league, but also to higher goals, which is to remind the world that the city of Mariupol is Ukrainian, even if Moscow annexed it.
The players go down to the field wearing blue and yellow, the national flag of the country, and start each match or exercise by singing the national anthem of their country.
“Our main motive when playing every game is for all the people and on all social media to see that Mariupol is there, and this team is Ukrainian, even if the city is temporarily occupied,” says the team’s coach, Karina Kolakovska.
This week, the team played in the league matches against the “Shakhtar” team, but the authorities prevented the fans from attending due to the dangers of war, and the silence was frightening in the stadium, especially when the minute of silence was observed.
A ‘difficult’ minute’s silence
Standing next to her team for 60 seconds of silence for the victims of the war, midfielder Alina Kaidalovska, who fled Mariupol, recalled all the images of destruction, charred buildings, the terrifying escape route and hiding from the Russian strikes, as well as the tragic scenes of the people who lost their lives.
To get onto the field, players use a doorway piled high with sandbags marked “Shelter”.
Midfielder Alina Kaidalovska says: “The minute of silence was very difficult. It all went through my head so quickly. All these people, how we were hiding, running fast and falling to the ground. All the people who were dying.”
Alina Kaidalovska trains with her teammates for two hours every morning, on a modest court in Kiev, nestled among multi-storey buildings. Even though they knew that they would not win the championship this year.
In 2015, Kolakovska began her coaching career and co-founded the Mariupol women’s football team together with club president Jana Vinokourova.
In early 2022, Mariupol was ranked fourth in the league for women’s clubs.
But the fighting that began on February 24, 2022, not only interrupted the football season, but also thwarted the Mariupol team’s ambitions to rise in the rankings after the players were dispersed and fled to different countries around the world.
The decision to return to Kyiv
Key members of the squad, including the club president and coach, sought refuge in Bulgaria, but when a new football season began in August, they came up with the idea of returning to Ukraine and starting over.
The team received donations from other people and clubs, including equipment, uniforms and shoes.
After a stuttering initial months, the club has begun to thrive and now has 27 members, ranging in age from 16-34.
Although the players come from different cities, the crest printed on the dark blue uniform proudly demonstrates the club’s association with Mariupol.