Brazilian footballers escape Ukraine after a terrifying ordeal


Fourteen Brazilian footballers have escaped Ukraine after a terrifying ordeal in the midst of the Russian invasion.

The players and their young families, making up a travelling party close to 50, fled from their bunker in the basement of a luxury hotel in Kyiv in an anxious journey taking more than 24 hours, before they reached Romania’s capital Bucharest.

It started with a short dash in a convoy of cars to the railway station, flying Brazil flags from wing mirrors and windows in the hope it would identify them as neutrals and ensure their safety. They feared what might happen if they missed the train and were stranded in the city.

The group included players from Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv, who were in a hotel in the Ukrainian capital after Russia invaded the country 

Maria Souza, wife of Shakhtar Donetsk’s Marlon Santos, uploaded a video to Instagram of her fraught car journey from the hotel. Through tears, she told how they were trying to catch one of three trains heading west.

Most of the players took the same train on Saturday, carrying them to Chernivtsi in the south-west of Ukraine. It took 16 hours.

From there, they took a bus into Moldova, where a few stayed. The rest boarded the Romania national team bus for a seven-hour journey to Bucharest, where they were greeted by the president of the Romania FA and visited, yesterday, by Mircea Lucescu, the former Shakhtar boss now in charge of Dynamo Kyiv.

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‘Finally we have time to breathe,’ Pedrinho, Shakhtar’s 23-year-old midfielder, told Sportsmail as he sought a route back to Brazil from Bucharest.

The long, arduous route via Moldova proved quicker than some independent crossings. Lucas Rangel, a Brazilian who plays for Vorskla Poltava, 200 miles east of Kyiv, took four days to reach and cross the border into Poland. Others are still trying to find a way out.

Pedrinho, Shakhtar's (r) 23-year-old midfielder, pictured playing for Brazil U23, made it out of Kyiv

Pedrinho, Shakhtar’s (r) 23-year-old midfielder, pictured playing for Brazil U23, made it out of Kyiv 

The population of Kyiv has been sheltering underground while the Russians have attacked the capital

The population of Kyiv has been sheltering underground while the Russians have attacked the capital

Shakhtar’s Italian coach Roberto De Zerbi and his eight staff made it out of Kyiv by train to Lviv in the west of Ukraine. They have since made it over the border into Hungary. Former Shakhtar boss Paulo Fonseca, his Ukrainian wife and their son escaped Kyiv to Romania on Sunday, in a mission orchestrated by the Portuguese Embassy. ‘We thank everyone who helped us,’ said Fonseca.

Shakhtar have been playing in exile since 2014, when war erupted in eastern Ukraine and parts of the Donbas region fell to pro-Russian forces.

Ukrainian Premier League teams had been preparing for the season to restart after a winter break. Both Shakhtar and Dynamo had been away to training camps in Turkey but returned last week in the belief there was no danger in Kyiv, only the border regions.

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Russia launched its invasion on Thursday and it soon became clear that Kyiv was a key target. All Brazilian players based in the capital were advised by their clubs to seek shelter in the basement of the hotel.

Shakhtar's Brazil-born Ukraine international forward Junior Moraes sent out an appeal

Shakhtar’s Brazil-born Ukraine international forward Junior Moraes sent out an appeal 

The Brazil international David Neres recently completed a move from Ajax to Shakhtar

The Brazil international David Neres recently completed a move from Ajax to Shakhtar 

President of UEFA Aleksander Ceferin was in hourly contact with the players in Ukraine

President of UEFA Aleksander Ceferin was in hourly contact with the players in Ukraine

Once there, however, they were left unattended. No further information came through from clubs or the Brazilian Embassy, other than to leave if possible. There was no advice about exit routes, causing great stress. Some players said they felt abandoned.

The players from Shakhtar are Marlon, Vinicius Tobias, Vitao, Dodo, Ismaily, Maycon, Tete, Marcos Antonio, Pedrinho, Fernando, Junior Moraes and David Neres. And from Dynamo, Emerson Santana and Vitinho.

On Friday, they received a message to head for the station and board trains out of the capital but were too afraid to leave without security. They stayed in the hotel bunker, where they were woken during the night by explosions around the city. Food and water were in short supply and one of the players has a baby only four months old.

A huge explosion is seen at Vinnytsia military base, in central Ukraine, as the country comes under all-out attack by Russia

A huge explosion is seen at Vinnytsia military base, in central Ukraine, as the country comes under all-out attack by Russia

An explosion lights up the night sky over Kiev in the early hours of Thursday, as Russia launched an all-out attack on Ukraine from north, south and east with bombs, cruise missiles and rockets raining from the skies

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An explosion lights up the night sky over Kiev in the early hours of Thursday, as Russia launched an all-out attack on Ukraine from north, south and east with bombs, cruise missiles and rockets raining from the skies

On Saturday, there was another message about trains but, on this occasion, there was help from the football authorities UEFA, FIFPRO and the FAs of Ukraine, Moldova and Romania. 

The players were escorted to the station and the logistics were set in place for the later stages of the journey.

For most, it was the first time they had emerged from underground since the fighting started.

Sporting Gijon's Ukrainian defender Vasyl Kravets has revealed he wants to go to war, and is willing to put his career on hold to do so.

Sporting Gijon’s Ukrainian defender Vasyl Kravets has revealed he wants to go to war, and is willing to put his career on hold to do so.

Kravets (right) has been capped by Ukraine's U21s and is currently on loan at Sporting Gijon from Leganes

Kravets (right) has been capped by Ukraine’s U21s and is currently on loan at Sporting Gijon from Leganes



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