A young Ukrainian footballer who arrived in Bracknell last week has spoken about his “very tough” journey escaping the war. 

Marko Podoliak, 17, touched down in the UK last week after a five-day journey to start a two-year sponsorship programme at Bracknell Town Football Club’s educational academy. 

“My uncle made all of this possible, he agreed with the people at the club to get me here to Bracknell on trial,” said Podoliak. 

“I am really unsure about football in Ukraine, whether it is going to continue again for another year or so. To get over here and to be playing football is great.” 

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To flee the invasion by Russian forces, Podoliak had travelled to the Ukraine-Polish boarder, via Moldova, Hungary and Slovakia, before taking a plane to Paris. From Paris, Podoliak flew to Dublin before finally taking a ferry to the UK. 

“Overall, it was a very tough and a very long journey,” said Podoliak. 

As well as being forced to leave his home country, the aspiring footballer is also separated from the rest of his family. His father, elder brother and grandparents are in Lviv, in western Ukraine, whilst his mother and younger brother are with friends in Italy. 

“I speak to my family every day,” he said. “I speak to my mum, my dad, my brother and my grandma. We are all keeping in touch. 

“My dad and brother are now part of the territorial defence so they are defending the city itself.” 

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The chairman of Bracknell Town Football Club, Kayne Steinborn-Busse, played a pivotal role in getting the former Dynamo Kyiv academy player to the UK. Without his intervention, Podoliak faced conscription in Ukraine when he turns 18. 

“I am really happy to be here in Bracknell, I am really grateful to the president of Bracknell football club to make all of this happen” he said.

Bracknell News: Marko Podoliak alongside Bracknell Town FC chairman Kayne Steinborn-Busse Marko Podoliak alongside Bracknell Town FC chairman Kayne Steinborn-Busse  

“All of the lads are helping me adapt to my new surroundings. All I want to do now is to continue to grow as a footballer.” 

Podoliak has already played two games for the club and scored his first goal earlier this week.