'I want this nightmare to end as soon as possible' - Ukraine goalkeeper Trubin praying for peace

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Anatoliy Trubin Shakhtar Donetsk 2021-22Getty Images

Imagine spending your entire career at one club yet never playing at its home stadium or even training at its state-of-art facilities.

That is the story of Anatoliy Trubin, the 20-year-old Shakhtar Donetsk goalkeeper, nicknamed the "Ukrainian Courtois", and widely seen as one of the brightest talents in the country.

In 2014, at the age of just 13, Trubin was forced to abandon his home and move to Kyiv in order to continue playing for Shakhtar.

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And now, he is a refugee in his country once again, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has made life in the capital impossible.

"Our youth team was just about to move to Shakhtar's main training centre in 2014, because that's what happens starting from the Under-13 teams," Trubin explains in an exclusive interview with GOAL.

"However, the military situation began, and things became unclear. For a long while, we didn't even know if there would still be a team at all.

"Then, in August, we were told to pack and move to the Kyiv region if we wanted to stay at the academy."

The kid's life had changed, totally and unexpectedly.

"Our family lived just a few minutes from the Shakhtar training ground, and it was supposed to be very comfortable. All of a sudden, I had to leave home," he says.

"It was very difficult for me and my parents, who at times didn't see me for about six months. They knew that I love football, and I guess they just couldn’t prevent me from going.

"I was just following my dream, but in very different circumstances."

It has been a long and painful story for Trubin.

The world only started paying attention to the conflict this year but it all started eight years ago, when separatists, strongly supported by Russia, began military actions, aiming to achieve independence for the Donbass region.

Many people in Donetsk speak Russian as their mother tongue, which is perfectly normal and logical, given its history in the Soviet Union, which united all of the republics in the same country.

It is noteworthy that Russian is the default language at Shakhtar's official website. That doesn't mean, however, that they support Russia's aggression – quite the contrary.

Trubin, who speaks Russian, claims: "I don’t know anyone who wouldn't like Donetsk to stay part of Ukraine. Donetsk is Ukraine, and it can only flourish as an Ukrainian city. It was a magnificent prosperous town, the city of roses.

"I just want this war to be over as soon as possible, so that things can be as they were. How could anyone support this aggression, when peaceful people are dying?

"Such a situation helped me to grow mentally faster. Maybe that is the reason why my progress was quite fast."

Trubin made his Shakhtar debut in May 2019, aged just 17, and started playing regularly less than a year later. His Champions League debut was quite sensational, in a 3-2 win against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu, with Trubin beating the real Thibaut Courtois.

Anatoliy Trubin Shakhtar Donetsk Real Madrid 2020-21 GFX
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"Our Brazilian players gave me that nickname, because I am tall like him – 199cm," he says. "He is not my role model, because I grew up admiring Iker Casillas, Petr Cech and Edwin van der Sar.

"But it was obviously great to play against him in the Champions League and win. We greeted each other after the final whistle, and wished each other luck."

Shakhtar played in the Champions League this season as well, but now that feels like a distant memory, following the Russian invasion that started on February 24.

"We didn't think it could really happen," he admits. Nobody expected Russia to be so barbaric and cruel. This really is a nightmare. I don’t understand how they are capable of it.

"They ruined so many beautiful towns and killed so many civilians. That is a catastrophe.

"Up until 2014, we just considered Russia to be a neighbour. There were no bad feelings between people in the two countries. It was unthinkable that war could start, first in Donetsk and then in all of Ukraine.

"But now, Russia doesn't exist for me as a country anymore. I think it would take a very long time for the wounds to heal."

The tragedy of Mariupol, besieged and almost totally destroyed by Russian aggressors, is very personal for Trubin.

"It is almost my second town," he says. "As kids, we used to train and play there quite a lot. We also went there with my family for seaside vacations.

"My girlfriend is from Mariupol, and all her family lived there. Thankfully, they now managed to escape."

He keeps in touch daily with his family in Donetsk.

"Only when I joined the first-team squad three years ago was there an opportunity to bring my mother and sister to live with me," he reveals. "But my father, grandmother, uncle and aunt are still in Donetsk.

"They are relatively safe, even though there are severe problems with running water and electricity."

The keeper himself, together with his mother and sister, escaped to Lutsk in the west of the country.

Ironically, it's the hometown of Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, once a legend of Ukrainian football, but now considered a traitor as he silently continues to work as assistant coach at Gazprom-owned Zenit.

"I would rather not talk about that man," Trubin says. "We went to Lutsk because it was possible to find a place to live here.

"Some players went to other towns, like Uzhhorod and Lviv. There is a pitch here, and I am trying to train and keep myself in form, but that is not easy."

Whereas the foreign players were allowed to leave the country, the situation is different for Ukrainians.

Anatoliy Trubin Shakhtar Donetsk training 2021-22 GFX
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"Men aged 18 to 60 are not allowed to leave," he explains. "There might have been interest from certain clubs, and I might have loved to join a foreign club temporarily.

"But that is impossible without getting permission from the Ministry of Sports of the Football Association.

"I could have been more useful for the country by playing abroad, rather than just sitting here and doing nothing."

The young keeper was part of Ukraine's Euro 2020 squad, even though he didn't play.

Now, that national team must start thinking about the World Cup qualifying fixture against Scotland that was postponed until June because of the war. The winner will face Wales in the playoff for the place in Qatar.

"This is another important aspect. I wish I could at least find a team in order to train regularly. It is much better to train with a squad rather than do it all by myself," Trubin says.

However, while the World Cup is important, peace is all that matters to Ukrainians right now.

"I want this nightmare to end as soon as possible, and for us to get our country back to normal," he says.

"Then, my biggest dream is to return to Donetsk and play at Donbass Arena. It was impossible for many years, but I believe that day will come.”