In 2009, Beyoncé was paid to sing at the opening of a new football stadium in Eastern Ukraine. The stadium looked like a giant blue UFO; it cost $400m to build and was home to the Champions League contenders, Shakhtar Donetsk.
A few years before, Shakhtar had been a poor club, based in a grim industrial city. A local oligarch took it over and invested millions eventually bringing it to UEFA Cup glory. The new stadium was so good, it was used to host the semi-final of Euro 2012.
Then in 2014, pro-Russian separatists took over Eastern Ukraine; the club had to flee to the west of the country and the glittering stadium was attacked.
Shakhtar Donetsk, with its star players, is now a team constantly on the road - homeless - hundreds of miles away from its fan base and stadium. Shakhtar now has to use a variety of grounds and training bases with many of the players living in hotels.
Like the country of Ukraine, Shakhtar has no idea where it is headed.
The fans, players and officials are divided by the conflict, and the oligarch himself has been under fire from all sides for seeming to dither on whether he’s pro- or anti- Ukrainian unity.
RTE’s Europe Editor, Tony Connelly, has reported extensively from Ukraine: the Orange Revolution, the Maidan protests, the annexation of Crimea, the war in the East.
In “Bombs, Balls and Beyoncé”, Connelly takes a different approach to the story of Ukraine in crisis - he tells it through football.
The oligarch who owns Shakhtar, Rinat Akhmetov, is one of the richest men in Europe. He is deeply involved in Ukrainian politics and has used Shakhtar's success to build his political power. That connection between politics and football is not just important to Akhmetov, the fans and the players feel it too. As one Shakhtar defender says, “We’re not just a football team. A victory for us is a victory for Ukraine."
Presented by Tony Connelly
Produced by Tony Connelly & Ronan Kelly
Research, Yuliya Shulaeva
Readings, Fergus Sweeney
First Broadcast at 2pm, Radio 1, October 25, 2014