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How the war in Ukraine landed one Ukrainian Soccer player with El Paso Locomotive FC

EL PASO, Texas -- It's been roughly six months since Russia invaded Ukraine - a war that has shaped the lives of so many including one Ukrainian professional soccer player.

On Feb. 25th the Ukrainian Premier League was set to return from its midseason break, but that never happened. Instead the war broke out the day prior and professional soccer hasn't been played in the country since.

That was until Tuesday, Aug. 23rd - the league returned to play in empty stadiums with bomb shelters on standby in case of air-raids.

Artem Kholod was at an airport in Turkey when the war broke out. He had been at a training camp for his team Mariupol FC.

"Our coach says the war has started and we don't go home," Kholod said.

The 22-year-old then spent the next four months in hotels in Turkey, feeling a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from guilt, helplessness and gratefulness.

"The first week all guys always read the news," Kholod said. "Twenty-four hours a day just watching news about city and country. You don't want to eat you don't want to sleep you just want to know about your city."

Kholod's Dad is still in Ukraine fighting, the rest of his family left and reunited with him after three weeks in Ukraine during the war.

With the Ukrainian Premier League on hold at the time and his team of Mariupol FC disbanding due to the war, Kholod was approached by El Paso Locomotive FC.

Kholod told ABC-7 it was important for him to continue playing soccer because it's his life.

"I want to be here and I'm happy to be here," Kholod said.

He said playing without sirens and bombs going off in the background is a dream for him and his Dad wants him to continue playing and push the limits.

With his family, friends and country as motivation, Kholod is using his platform to help.

"The war is still going. My house, my city was bombed," Kholod said. "For me it's my house, I want to talk about this I want to say to the whole world about this and I hope and I pray for the war to stop everyday. I hope and pray for this."

Kholod made his debut for the Locomotive on Saturday and he and the Locos host Phoenix Rising FC Sat. Aug 27th at 7:30 p.m.

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Rachel Phillips

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