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Competing in the knockout rounds of the UEFA Europa League for a third straight season, FC Metalist Kharkiv's impressive rise fills coach Myron Markevych with great pride.
"When I came to the club in 2005, there was hardly a team," said the 62-year-old. "There was no academy, no stadium, no training ground – nothing at all. So we started from scratch and it was probably better that way. Now, of course, we've progressed to the point where we are regularly featuring in Europe and, most importantly, Kharkiv played host to EURO 2012."
If UEFA EURO 2012 helped put Kharkiv on the footballing map, then Metalist's dashing displays in the UEFA Europa League have played a big part too. This term Markevych's men topped Group K, winning four of their six matches. That set up a round of 32 meeting with Newcastle United FC, with the score 0-0 ahead of Thursday's second leg in Kharkiv.
"Our stadium is full for almost every game," said former Ukraine boss Markevych. "Everyone in the city lives for football. Lots of youngsters are getting into football now and there's been something of a footballing boom. I think we've played a part in making that happen."
The immediate aim is to improve on last year's quarter-final exit at the hands of Sporting Clube de Portugal, while a place in next season's UEFA Champions League remains a possibility according to Markevych. "We want to go there and I'm not hiding it," he said.
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