Manchester City have announced that former Ukraine Under-21 international Andrii Kravchuk is training with the club after travelling to the UK as a refugee.
The 23-year-old terminated his contract with Russian First Division side Torpedo Moscow and fled to Manchester following Russia’s invasion of his homeland.
City have received permission from the Home Office, Football Association and Premier League for Kravchuk to work with their Under-23s squad for the remainder of the season.
The arrangement was set up by City’s Ukraine international Oleksandr Zinchenko, a friend since childhood when both were in the Shakhtar Donetsk academy.
Kravchuk, who linked up with City for the first time on Thursday, said: “I am so grateful to Manchester City for giving me this chance to train with them.
“The past few weeks and months have been so difficult, but to be back on the pitch means so much to me.”
Kravchuk had been at a training camp in Turkey when informed by his mother that war had broken out. It has been a very distressing time with his family still in Kyiv and Kravchuk’s brother fighting with the Ukrainian armed forces.
He said: “My mother called me at 5am. She usually calls me at lunchtime after training but this was different.
“Her first words to me were, ‘Russia is bombing us’. It was a shock. I couldn’t find the words. I was destroyed inside. I cannot believe it’s happened. In the 21st century, in the middle of Europe. I still can’t find the words.
“I’ve spoken to my family. They are in Kyiv and safe right now (but) my mother has just told me she can still hear the bombs. I’m really worried.
“I am in groups on my phone and always receiving messages with bombing alerts. Every time those alerts come through I am so anxious. Your only thought is that my family can die.
“I speak to my brother every day. I tell him every day how proud I am of him, for not only protecting our family but the whole country and the Ukrainian people. He is staying and fighting.”
Kravchuk felt he had no choice but to quit Torpedo.
He said: “I felt really uncomfortable. What has happened is shocking.
“There were nice people around me at the club but I was playing in a country that invaded my homeland. Leaving the club was the only decision. People in Ukraine would not understand me if I continued to play there.”
Zinchenko was 13 when he first met Kravchuk, who was then 11, at Shakhtar.
The City defender said: “While I wish the circumstances were very different, it has been good to be back with Andrii today.
“I know how much football means to him, and how it can help us during these difficult times. I would like to thank my club for giving him the opportunity to train with us.”
Kravchuk left Shakhtar at the age of 19 to join Olimpic Donetsk and later moved on to Torpedo. He has represented Ukraine at Under-17 as well as Under-21 level.
City’s Academy director Jason Wilcox said: “Although it’s only a small gesture, we’re pleased to have been able to support Andrii.
“By training with our Under-23s, he can maintain his fitness and practice his profession at City Football Academy while continuing to develop as a player.”
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