Background to the project
As we sat in a deserted restaurant on the edge of Rivne, discussion turned to our next adventures. We had already had one memorable journey in 2019, having brought our car across the whole of Europe – completing the journey hassle free. Natasha expressed her desire to learn more about Ukraine and see parts of it that were yet unknown to her. I, on the other hand, was willing to visit anywhere where we could watch a game of football. We had been in Rivne for this very reason, taking in a local game as well as visiting the historic centre of Rivne and the castles of the neighboring area.
I have been enjoying reading books about epic football adventures of travels across the world as well as quicker journeys around the UK – doing the 92 came to mind in particularly. Given the vast distances travelled in Ukraine to get from one place to another, it appeared near on impossible to visit every professional ground in a year, especially whilst holding down a full time job in Kyiv. However, visiting every region of Ukraine during the first half of the season seemed a more achievable yet still challenging goal. So this is where we arrived at – 24 regions in 17 weeks from late July through to the middle of December.
A few rules needed to be established given the issues facing Ukraine. Firstly and probably most importantly, we will not be visiting Lugansk region due to the fighting having forced all the teams to either close down or move elsewhere. Nevertheless, we will still visit Lugansk with a tripto the Zorya team’s home game in Zaporizha City that has hosted the team for the last few years. Secondly, we will only visit stadium that we have not been to already so that we can gain a greater appreciation of the different communities around the country.
I was taken to my first game in Birmingham back in 1986 and have been hooked ever since. However, it was only in the 90’s during my teenage years that I discovered my love of travelling. With Tamworth FC, I was lucky to have a group of mates that would travel the length of the country following our club by train or car.
It was during this time that some of us started visiting random games whenever we had a free weekend and from this, my groundhopping roots were planted. Life and a love of travelling has taken me overseas for most of my adult life. Despite trying to grow up, football keeps pulling me back in and I decided that I wanted to be truly happy so have chosen to dive deeper in. Fortunately, I have the support of my wonderful partner, who puts up with it and me when I get a bit too carried away by a random team that has popped up on my radar. I will forever by thankful for her support.
On to Ukraine – it has been a great six months so far, travelling around the country and visiting the local communities. We have met some interesting characters in a range of unusual places and look forward to finding out what lies ahead.