WHEN AFC Totton players took to the field in preparation for their Southern League Div.1 South encounter with Evesham United this weekend, they were joined by a young special guest from Ukraine.
Zlata Makedonska and her mother Svitlana are refuguees from Zaporizhzhia in the south east of Ukraine. The city contains multiple power stations, including the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant – the largest nuclear power station in Europe – and the it is also an important industrial centre for steel, aluminium and automobiles.
The city has been targeted by Russian air strikes and drone attacks during the war, leading to much of the city’s population of 723,000 finding safer locations across Europe.
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Calmore residents Jonathan and Emma Hughes signed up to the Government’s scheme to house refugees and have been hosting Svitlana and 8-year-old Zlata for six months.
"I wrote to AFC Totton to enquire about getting season tickets for them, even though the season is well underway," explained Jonathan.
"Steve Brookwell (AFC Totton’s CEO) was happy to sort that out and he suggested that Zlata might also like to be the team’s mascot for a day, which she was really excited about. It’s a lovely gesture and a great way to welcome her and Svitlana to the Totton community."
Svitlana and Zlata love their football and are keen fans of Shakhtar Donetsk, the 13-times winners of the Ukrainian Premier League. They met Jimmy Ball on the sidelines of the pitch a good while before kick-off, posing for photos in which Zlata proudly displayed her AFC Totton football signed by the players.
The youngster doesn’t speak much English but with a big smile on her face, Zlata was able to respond to Jimmy’s welcome with an enthusiastic, “I'm so happy!”
After meeting the players, Zlata ignored the poor weather conditions to accompany the team onto the pitch for their pre-match warm-up and to meet and greet the match officials and the Evesham United players.
Then she and Svitlana settled down to watch what transpired to be a competitive match, in which The Stags’ new signing Charlie Davis marked his Totton debut with an an injury-time winner from the edge of the area to claim all three points for his new team.
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