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Ukraine fans in tears at Wales World Cup play-off as refugees gather in Cardiff while friends are targeted by Russian missiles back home
Ukrainian refugees resettled in Cardiff gathered to watch their country take on Wales in the major World Cup play-off final on Sunday. Both countries have been bracing themselves for a historic encounter at Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday, June 5, with a place at the World Cup in Qatar later this year at stake.
As well as gathering in unofficial fan zones across the city, 100 tickets were made available to refugees who have settled in Wales as a result of Russias invasion of Ukraine. There were emotional scenes inside the ground as the game kicked off, with some shedding tears in the stands. You canfollow live Wales v Ukraine updates here.
The Football Association of Wales had been working with the Welsh Government to make tickets available to displaced families in Wales as a result of the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian FA, with assistance from the FAW, is also believed to be selling their standard 5% allocation of tickets for the World Cup play-off final.
Read more:Ukrainian refugees invited by Wales to watch huge World Cup play-off final in Cardiff
A group of Ukrainian fans gathered at Corporation Yard pub in Canton to watch the match, including refugees who have recently arrived in Cardiff.
One fan, Oskana, arrived in Cardiff three weeks ago. Ahead of the match she said: I feel very nice and calm here. Welsh people are so open-hearted and so kind. What Welsh people do is from the depths of their hearts.
My parents are still in Ukraine. I speak to them every day. They are so excited about this match, everyone will be watching the game back home. Today is only about football. Football is not war, football unites people. What team will win is it not important. I want Ukraine to win but if Wales win a part of me will be happy.
Another supporter, Natalia, lives in Cardiff but is from Poland. She helped establish Cardiff for Ukraine, a direct-action group sourcing aid for Ukrainians displaced from their homes. The group is run by volunteers who are supplying donations to a centre in Poland, which are then transported to refugees there or by the Armed Forces into Ukraine. Monetary donations are being used to buy strategic surgical equipment, medicines and combat protection requested by registered charities working in the field.
Speaking from Corporation Yard, Natalia said: We collect donations and goods and send them to Ukraine and people on the Ukraine and Polish border. We also send money to charities in Poland who are looking after Ukrainian children.
Asked if a Ukraine win against Wales can bring some hope to the people of Ukraine, she said: These people have lived in hope since February. People have been so generous but the situation in Ukraine is worse now than it was back in February. As humans we are getting used to the war and thats scary in itself. Hopefully winning today can bring these people a bit of happiness.
Another refugee, Larysa - from a town near Kyiv - resettled in Cardiff five weeks ago and says she has a fabulous new family in Wales. Ahead of the game, she said: I came here five weeks ago. I have a fabulous new family here. I have a lot of friends still back home. One said this morning that there were Russian missiles above her head, so close that she could see the numbers on them. Football helps people come together. We are here and we are now part of Wales.
Helen McAdie, who also lives in Cardiff, set up Cardiff for Ukraine. She said: Its a really difficult one today because I think everybody is so conflicted, especially if youre Welsh, because we all - especially me now - have an affinity with the Ukrainians that Ive met and they are just in such a tragic situation.
People have left their homes to be here for sanctuary but their heart is still in Ukraine and there are some really difficult situations going on over there. So we all feel for them but for Wales as well its a really passionate moment because we have waited so long to get to the World Cup. So as my T-shirt shows, we are really torn, our hearts are half with Wales and half with Ukraine.
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