Ukraine war: Shakhtar Donetsk's dream of a Manchester City away game as part of peace tour to raise funds

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Far from the battlefields and bombed-out towns in their homeland, some of Ukraine's best footballers are doing their own duty by playing for peace around Europe - and it's a tour they now want to bring to England.

Shakhtar Donetsk is one of Ukraine's biggest teams and their Director of Football, Darijo Srna, has told Sky News they would love to face Manchester City on the next stage of their peace tour this summer.

"My dream, and our dream, is to play against Manchester City because we have a lot of connections with Pep Guardiola, with Manchester City…their captain Fernandinho is our ex-player and also Zinchenko."

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Oleksandr Zinchenko, the Manchester City defender, is one of three Ukrainians in the Premier League and started out at the Shakhtar Donetsk academy.

"We know each other, we are friends," Srna said of the two clubs.

"I know they are waiting for us and we will do everything to arrive in England and play against Manchester City.

"We believe that we will continue this global tour in July and maybe August - of course lots of clubs from England call us to play against them," Srna said.

The tour has so far raised almost £300,000 for children in Ukraine after matches in Greece, Poland and Turkey - they are due to complete the first round of games this Sunday when they take on Hajduk Split in Croatia.

Shakhtar was forced to move from their home stadium, the Donbass Arena, in 2014 due to the long-running conflict with Russia in the east of the country.

They have since played home matches at other stadiums in Ukraine but remain deeply committed to the people of their city and region.

Next week, many of Shakhtar's players will join up with Ukraine's national team to start training together for their delayed World Cup play-off match against Scotland on 1 June.

The winner will play Wales for a place at the World Cup finals in Qatar this winter.

'We forget about war just for 90 minutes'

Once the playoffs are complete, Shakhtar hope to resume their peace tour - their rivals Dynamo Kyiv are also playing fundraising games around Europe.

"We will go everywhere if we can receive help for Ukrainian people…physically we are here but our hearts are in Ukraine," Srna added.

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"For us, it's not a problem to fly to USA or Brazil, it is important we help everyone who needs help in this moment, it is a lot of people, believe me."

He said the opportunity to play and represent the people caught up in the war has given their players and staff a renewed sense of purpose: "We must be positive; we must smile together and cry together.

"When we are playing for 90 minutes, we are all happy and we forget about war, just for 90 minutes, and then after that, we are all together on phones speaking to our friends about what is happening."

Their fundraising is sending money to help those defending Ukraine, medical teams in the country and Ukrainian children.

"We are showing to everyone that we are one family," Srna said.

This week the Ukrainian Premier League season was declared over after it was suspended in February following the Russian invasion.

Shakhtar were top of the league and will qualify for next season's Champion's League but before that, they are fully committed to continuing their tour around the world.

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