The current home of 2017 Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk and recently formed Persha Liga wanabees Metalist 1925, the Metalist Stadium owes its reconstruction to oligarch, Oleksandr Yaroslavsky.
The former backer of now former club Metalist Kharkiv, Yaroslavsky opened the rebuilt arena in 2009, on the occasion of his 50th birthday. Having staged three games at Euro 2012, all defeats for top seeds Holland, the Metalist Stadium first bade farewell to Yaroslavsky, who sold its host club later that same year.
In 2016, Metalist Kharkiv folded.
The complete failure of rampant capitalism would have amused Anastas Mikoyan, an early associate of Stalin and high-ranking Soviet politician known for having introduced ice cream to the USSR. He also commissioned the original Metalist Stadium. Both original club and ground date back to 1925, when the first brick was laid. Kharkiv being a hub of tractor manufacture, the stadium was known as ‘Traktor’ when it opened in 1926.
Modernisation took place through the 1970s, when the tenants were a regular feature in the top Soviet league.
Yaroslavsky had almost everything overhauled, the East Stand built anew and the South Stand now containing commercial outlets.
Capacity is 40,000. Phoenix club Metalist 1925 attracted a near 8,000 crowd for the visit of local rivals Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in October 2017 – otherwise their gates are in the low thousands. Sadly, Shakhtar’s aren’t much better, not for domestic fixtures in any case.
Done out in Metalist yellow and blue, the stadium still shows echoes of its Soviet days, in the ornate ticket office, the nearby trams stop and the adjacent metro station, done out with Metalist murals. Walking up to street level, alongside on Plekhanivska is the South Stand (coded yellow on stadium maps), gradually renovated through the 1970s and 1980s, and completed for 2012. It contains outlets such as a tattoo parlour, a travel agents and a pharmacy, as well as and the recommendable FC Café.
As you walk round left to the West Stand (red-coded) on Vlasovski, you pass the quaint ticket office on the corner, and the main entrance until you come to another boutique and the tastefully themed Café Metallist overlooking a training pitch.
The North Stand accommodates home supporters, though Metalist 1925 fans also gather at the south end, beside away fans allocated two sectors close to the East Stand, newly built for 2012. All around rise tower blocks, some bearing vast murals urging Metalist support on match days.
Sportivnaya metro on the red line has an exit right beside the stadium. It is linked by a short underground passage to Metrobudivnykiv G I Vashchenka on the blue line, the station just over main road Plekhanivska from the stadium.
Tram Nos. 5 and 8 run along Plekhanivska.
From the ornate kassa on the corner of Plekhanivska and Vlasovski, to the left of the club shop, tickets are almost always available on the day. According to the importance of the fixtures, prices rise from 15-25hr in the north end and 20-25hr in the south end, to 35-85hr for better seats in the East and West Stands. There’s also a ticket office amid the modest complex of shops in the South Stand.
For online sales, see Shakhtar Donetsk.
On the other side of Plekhanivska from the stadium, the bar/restaurant of the Hotel Nadia occupies the ground floor of an imposing stand-alone building in its own grounds. Black-and-white photos of Soviet-era Spartakiad games and Metalist heroes (Igor Ribak, Ihor Yakubovsky) line the walls of a neat dining room bookended by a cocktail bar and modest stage. An extensive menu features mains (steak, stroganoff) in the 100-150hr range.
At the ground, the two main venues are the FC Café in the South Stand on Plekhanivska and the larger Café Metalist overlooking a training pitch behind the North Stand.
Amid the décor in the FC Café, note the league table of the 47th Soviet championship, the hand-bill for a 1938 game between Selmash Kiev and Spartak Kharkov and the poignant newspaper article announcing a match between Kiev and Kharkov on June 16, 1941 – one week before the Nazi invasion. Mounted scarves include Shakhtar Donetsk, Liverpool and San Marino, perhaps the only example of the Sammarinese being supported so far from home.
Regularly patronised by young players trooping in from the training pitch alongside, the first-floor Café Metallist also sports wonderful memorabilia from Soviet times. Babushkas are seen clearing the pitch while menfolk rebuild the stadium after the war using locally made tractors. There are also team line-ups from 1926 and 1961.
On the menu are borsch and cheesecake, as well as Obolon beer and Bogatirski kvas, the non-alcoholic beer so popular here in summer.
Outside, kiosks purvey hot dogs and ‘Berliner’ doughnuts.