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Donbass Arena

It is an hour before the nightly army curfew begins but no-one’s taking any chances and the town is currently slipping into a state of quiet. It will not stir again until 4am tomorrow, when the curfew is lifted.

Donetsk is a town that once bristled with guarantee. Located in the east of Ukraine near Russia’s borders, it’s now an integral place in a bitter battle that shows little sign of easing.

A lot of those who stay in Donetsk seem diminished by years of isolation and its football team – the core of the town’s social life – has fled.

The fighting had begun in April, when heavily armed pro-Russian separatists seized large areas of land in Ukraine’s Donbas region, such as Donetsk. The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) was created.

The Ukrainian government accuses Russia of arming the separatists from the east and of sending troops into the region.

World champions Spain beat Portugal on penalties before a capacity crowd and the countless millions watching on TV. There is no football played here today. The only indication of its former life is a sign reading ‘keep off the grass’.

The stadium was severely damaged twice – once when a shell crashed into the stadium, starting a fire, and when a Ukrainian rocket landed nearby. The shockwaves shook part of the roof away. It has had basic repairs, but there is a ways to go before the location can be considered secure again.

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