May 11, 2018 / 12:47 PM / 6 months ago

Meet the Ukrainian MP hosting Champions League final fans for free

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian lawmaker Yegor Sobolev and his family decided to invite soccer fans to stay in their home for free when they heard hotels had aggressively raised prices for the night of the Champions League final on May 26.

Ukrainian lawmaker Yegor Sobolev shows the apartment where his family will host fans travelling to see the Champions League final game between Real Madrid and Liverpool, in Kiev, Ukraine May 10, 2018. Picture taken May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Many hotels and apartments are asking several thousand dollars for accommodation that normally costs around $50 per night or cancelling existing bookings to charge higher rates for the expected influx of around 50,000 supporters.

To promote a welcoming image of Ukraine, Ukrainians have taken to social media to offer supporters spare beds, lifts from the airport and even home-cooked meals of borscht, a traditional beetroot soup.

Even President Petro Poroshenko has offered to host a few fans to make up for the lack of affordable accommodation in the capital over the weekend of the final between Liverpool and Spain’s Real Madrid.

Opposition MP Sobolev, his wife and three children have agreed to hand over the keys to their apartment in central Kiev to a Liverpool supporter and his young daughter.

“I don’t think this is a risky idea. This is a pleasant and powerful way to connect people from different countries and continents,” he told Reuters in his apartment.

“That is what football means,” he said, surrounded by his children including his soccer-mad son Misha, 11, who was wearing full Liverpool kit.

This is not the first time the family have hosted strangers. In 2014, they invited a family to stay for three months who had fled pro-Russian separatist fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Kiev’s outpouring of hospitality stems in part from a desire to show the country has recovered from the worst of a political and economic crisis sparked by a 2013/14 pro-European uprising and subsequent separatist conflict.

A Facebook group called ‘Kyiv FREE couch’ that matches Ukrainians offering free accommodation with soccer supporters in need of a place to stay has gained over 5,000 members since its launch on May 5.

“This group should be called ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’,” member Zibby Puculek said in a post, referring to the Liverpool club anthem. “You are very, very nice people.”

Editing by Matthias Williams and Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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