Ukrainian teen training with Premier League club thanks to Tring and Berkhamsted refugee-hosting group

A 17-year-old from Kharkiv, Ukraine is now training with Watford FC after being brought over to the UK by the Berkhamsted & Tring Ukraine Hosting Network.

Thursday, 5th May 2022, 11:49 am
Updated Friday, 6th May 2022, 9:34 am

A refugee-hosting group in Dacorum has helped a teenager from Ukraine continue to pursue his passion for football by training at a Premier League club after feeling the conflict.

Nazar, who came over from Kharkiv with his mother this week, was a footballer at his local club before the war with Russia started.

Thanks to help from the Berkhamsted & Tring Ukraine Hosting Network, he is now settling in the UK and carrying on with football by training with Watford FC’s academy team.

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Left: Pictures show the refugee camps at the Ukrainian border in March. RIGHT: Matt (on the left) from Berkhamsted & Tring Ukraine Hosting Network with Andrii, the brother of a refugee that Matt transported to Germany.

Matt Longley, Host Co-Ordinator and Fundraising Lead at the hosting group said: “[Watford FC] took him for a full day's training and are having him now for another couple of weeks in the season.”

He added: “Who knows where this is gonna go? But it was just so nice to sort of end that journey from trying to get him out of a place being shelled to starting a trial at Watford, that felt like a big moment for me.”

Inna, Nazar’s mother said: “I am very grateful to Matt, your state for supporting our country, and me and my son!”

In early March, Matt went over to the Ukrainian border to deliver supplies to those fleeing the war and was inspired to help people find refuge in the UK once he returned home.

Reflecting on his time in the camps, he said: “I'm not gonna lie, it was a really, really horrible experience being out there for a week in a refugee camp."

It is now two months since he visited Poland and the father-of-three has helped to set up the Berkhamsted & Tring Ukraine Hosting Network which has housed more than 100 Ukrainian people in the Dacorum area.

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More than 70 hosts have been found in the local area which are now in the process of being connected with their respective families and individuals, with Matt, himself welcoming a family of four from Ukraine into his home.

The group is helping people to find hosts, pay for accommodation, essentials and transport to the UK as well as aiding them in navigating their new lives in Dacorum by finding GPs, schools and setting up bank accounts.

“It’s been an incredible community effort to see that many people come together and be able to house like over 100 people is unbelievable”, said Matt.

The hosting network, which is run by ten volunteers, is asking for help to cover the costs of travel and essentials for refugees arriving in Tring and Berkhamsted.

Matt said: “It’s paying for them to be able to afford food while they're waiting. It’s paying for flights and trying to get people back over here.”

When asked about what people can do day-to-day to help refugees, Matt said: “If you meet some people that come from Ukraine, just smile and say hello. I think that's the bare minimum you can do as a decent human being is to smile and make sure that they realise that they're nice people in the world.”

People can donate to the group’s fundraising page via this link.