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'The war won't stop me becoming a footballer'

Published on 2023-05-28 10:19:28 source:NBC News

What would you bring with you if you had to leave your home to escape a war?

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 13-year-old Makar Marynoshenko didn't have long to decide what to put in his rucksack.

But he knew that wherever he was going his football boots would be coming with him.

From the age of six, Makar had been part of the Dynamo Kyiv youth academy.

He should have signed his first contract with the club but the war came to his Bucha home.

Looking out of his window, he could see explosions and Russian helicopters in the sky.

Along with his mother Kristina and older brother Diarmid, they fled Ukraine.

After they left, their house was wrecked by Russian troops.

But Makar is determined the war won't destroy his dream of becoming a professional footballer.

Football has helped him to make friends in his new home in Omagh, County Tyrone.

"I like the adrenaline, fun," Makar told BBC News NI.

"You know when you score a goal, for example, it's very good fun."

He has been teaching his new friends a Ukrainian goal celebration.

The family is being hosted by Una Armstrong who soon discovered their shared interest in football.

"They eventually arrived here at the end of May, ironically enough the night of the Champions League final," she said.

"The two boys were very interested in that, they only arrived a few hours before it.

"They wanted Real Madrid to win and I wanted Liverpool to win so that was the start of the craic!"

Makar's talent came to the attention of youth coaches at County Fermanagh club Ballinamallard United.

While they sorted out a problem with his visa, Makar was able to play for the Maiden City in the Foyle Youth Cup.

His footballing exploits have been keeping Ms Armstrong busy.

She admits that it "has been time-consuming at times but because I'm a football supporter it's been very enjoyable".

"Trying to point him in the right direction and getting extra coaching and trying to keep the standard up that he was used to when he was with Dynamo Kyiv, that was very important to Kristina and the family so I like to think we have done that."

Makar said Una was "like my agent", finding him a club and organising training.

He is continuing to train hard to be a footballer but Makar's main hope is for the war in Ukraine to end soon so that he can return home to his dad.

"The most I want is the war to end and my emotions will be better. I will be happy," he said.

Until then he is making the most of his time at Drumragh Integrated College to improve his footballing skills and practise his goal celebrations.

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