‘Given a chance’: teenage Ukrainian football talents find hope in Poland

A top Warsaw academy is among the clubs who have offered safety and training to teenage boys with big ambitions

“It’s heaviest of all for the boys,” says Irina as she watches her son, Denys, play one-twos with a new teammate on an artificial surface in Warsaw’s northern suburbs. “His father isn’t here, and his older brother joined the army. It’s just the two of us. The language barrier is hard for me, but I’m willing to go through all the difficulties. Everything we’re doing now” – she motions to a fellow Ukrainian mother, standing along the touchline – “is for the sake of our children’s future.”

Denys is one of nine young Ukrainian footballers given a place to play by Turbo Academy, one of the most highly regarded setups in Poland. Most are 13 or 14; they held genuine hope of careers in the game before Russia invaded their country and, while safety was the primary consideration upon leaving, maintaining their prospects was a vital factor too. Football has virtually ground to a halt while Ukraine is defended but Turbo are among numerous clubs in Europe trying to help its budding stars.

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