Mark Temnycky –
May 2020 will mark the six year anniversary of Shakhtar Donetsk’s exile, as the Miners were forced to flee the Donbas following the start of the conflict in Ukraine. Despite their departure from Donetsk in May 2014, Shakhtar have had peculiar success over the past six years. Where did they relocate during this period, and what have they won in this six year span? What was the cause of their success, and what will the future hold?
The Miners relocated twice since the start of the Donbas conflict. Following the completion of the 2013/14 Ukrainian Premier Liha season, Shakhtar selected western Ukraine as their new home. A lack of a proper fan base and a series of poorly attended “home matches” in Lviv, however, forced the club to relocate again.
Shakhtar moved to Kharkiv during the winter of 2017, where they have remained over the past three UPL seasons. During this period, Shakhtar’s fan base grew and their attendance for home games increased. This is likely due to Kharkiv being much closer in geographical proximity to Donetsk than that of Lviv.
Shakhtar Donetsk’s Honors During Their Time in Exile: 2014-2019
Despite their time in exile, Shakhtar earned a series of trophies during this period. While in Lviv, the Miners won the 2016/17 UPL, 2015/16 and 2016/17 Ukrainian Cup and the 2015 Ukrainian Super Cup. Shakhtar then added to their successes in Kharkiv, where they won the 2017/18 and 2018/19 UPL, 2017/18 and 2018/19 Ukrainian Cup and the 2017 Ukrainian Super Cup.
Currently, Shakhtar Donetsk sit 13 points clear at the top of the UPL, thus they seemed destined to win yet another UPL title this season.
Outside of Ukraine, Shakhtar’s appearances in European competitions have not been poor. They appeared in the UEFA Champions League’s group stage in five of the last six seasons, and they progressed to the Champions League’s knockout stages on two of these five occasions.
The Miners have had more success in the UEFA Europa League during this spell. Over the course of this six year period, they advanced to the knockout stages of the Europa League on four out of six attempts (the other two being when they were in the Champions League knockout stages), where they made the semi-finals in one instance.
Reasons for Success
Shakhtar owe a large portion of success to their South American contingency, as the club has been known to recruit a series of talented Brazilians. This was particularly the case when Shakhtar won the 2008/09 UEFA Cup, now known as the Europa League.
A traditionally weak UPL has also helped them retain many of their titles. Aside from their main rivals Dynamo Kyiv, no other club has consistently challenged for the UPL title or any other domestic trophy within Ukraine. This has allowed the Miners to continue on their path to success within Ukraine.
What Does the Future Hold for Shakhtar Donetsk?
Overall, Shakhtar have had a series of success in Lviv and Kharkiv. As they are on course to win their tenth trophy over the span of six years. Despite this fame, however, the club, players and staff have surely missed their home. The conflict in Donbas forced the club to abandon their fans, and this has forced the club to adapt to new and unfavorable circumstances.
Ultimately, the dream has been to “return back to Donetsk.” One day, Shakhtar will finally return home, but time will tell when this will be the case. For now, Kharkiv is their home.
Mark Temnycky is an AIPS accredited journalist who covers the Ukrainian men’s national team and Ukrainian clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League for the Futbolgrad Network. Follow him @MTemnycky