World

With fighting in eastern Ukraine, soccer team from Donetsk plays far from home

  • FILE - In this Monday, June 6, 2011 file photo, a view of soccer stadium, Donbass Arena, in Donetsk, Ukraine. More than a year ago, Shakhtar Donetsk was poised to become one of European soccer’s giants. Backed by Ukraine’s richest man, industrialist Rinat Akhmetov, the club imported Brazilian stars en masse with a mission to win the Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious competition. Now, with the country wracked by conflict, Shakhtar has become a team of multimillionaire refugees. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, file)

    FILE - In this Monday, June 6, 2011 file photo, a view of soccer stadium, Donbass Arena, in Donetsk, Ukraine. More than a year ago, Shakhtar Donetsk was poised to become one of European soccer’s giants. Backed by Ukraine’s richest man, industrialist Rinat Akhmetov, the club imported Brazilian stars en masse with a mission to win the Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious competition. Now, with the country wracked by conflict, Shakhtar has become a team of multimillionaire refugees. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, file)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo taken on Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, player of FC Shakhtar  Donetsk Ivan Ordets walking down the street in Kiev, Ukraine. More than a year ago, Shakhtar Donetsk was poised to become one of European soccer’s giants. Backed by Ukraine’s richest man, industrialist Rinat Akhmetov, the club imported Brazilian stars en masse with a mission to win the Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious competition. Now, with the country wracked by conflict, Shakhtar has become a team of multimillionaire refugees. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

    In this photo taken on Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, player of FC Shakhtar Donetsk Ivan Ordets walking down the street in Kiev, Ukraine. More than a year ago, Shakhtar Donetsk was poised to become one of European soccer’s giants. Backed by Ukraine’s richest man, industrialist Rinat Akhmetov, the club imported Brazilian stars en masse with a mission to win the Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious competition. Now, with the country wracked by conflict, Shakhtar has become a team of multimillionaire refugees. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo taken Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, player of FC Shakhtar  Donetsk Ivan Ordets speaks to the Associated Press in Kiev, Ukraine. More than a year ago, Shakhtar Donetsk was poised to become one of European soccer’s giants. Backed by Ukraine’s richest man, industrialist Rinat Akhmetov, the club imported Brazilian stars en masse with a mission to win the Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious competition. Now, with the country wracked by conflict, Shakhtar has become a team of multimillionaire refugees. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

    In this photo taken Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, player of FC Shakhtar Donetsk Ivan Ordets speaks to the Associated Press in Kiev, Ukraine. More than a year ago, Shakhtar Donetsk was poised to become one of European soccer’s giants. Backed by Ukraine’s richest man, industrialist Rinat Akhmetov, the club imported Brazilian stars en masse with a mission to win the Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious competition. Now, with the country wracked by conflict, Shakhtar has become a team of multimillionaire refugees. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)  (The Associated Press)

The sleek stadium, built six years ago and host to some of Europe's biggest soccer matches, is silent. It sits in the middle of the city of Donetsk, a war zone controlled by pro-Russian separatists battling Ukrainian troops.

The $425 million Donbass Arena now serves as a depot and distribution point for supplies of humanitarian aid.

With 52,000 seats, it is the home of the talented soccer team Shakhtar Donetsk — but the squad hasn't played there since May 2. The fighting in eastern Ukraine has forced the team to play home games more than 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) away in Lviv, near the border with Poland.

Players originally packed light for what they thought would be a short stay in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and traveling by bus to the games in Lviv. Nine months later, they are starting to build new lives there.