Svyatik Artemenko is returning to the Guelph United Football Club roster after a tour with the Ukrainian military.
Artemenko traded his soccer cleats for combat boots when the Russian army invaded Ukraine in February.
Enlisting in the military meant Artemenko would be putting his soccer career on hold, days after the Western Ukrainian club FK Podylla offered him a contract.
“Svyatik is a talented, dedicated soccer player,” said United coach Keith Mason in a press release. “But he is an even better human being. We couldn’t be more proud of him for standing up for the people and freedom of Ukraine, but we are also excited to see him safely back home.”
Born in Odesa, Ukraine, Artemenko moved to Canada when he was young, growing up in Winnipeg.
He moved to Guelph to attend the University of Guelph and play soccer in the newly formed semi-professional United along with the U of G Gryphons.
Artemenko was a part of the historic Guelph United first-ever club to win a championship in their inaugural season in the 2021 League1 season.
Artemenko has been active on his Instagram account since he decided to enlist in the Ukrainian Army, sharing photos of him in uniform and photos of the war-torn streets of the city he was enlisted to protect.
"When he left no one was really expecting a war to be declared in his country, and it really shook all of us up," said Amardo Oakley, assistant captain of Guelph United FC. "Every day we were sort of thinking the worst but hoping for the best, obviously, and I think him being back now giving everyone peace of mind knowing he is safe and well and we can see him every day."
Artemenko arrived back in Canada recently and has since been training once again with the team.
"Everybody was super, super happy about that. You can only imagine one year you're lifting a trophy together and the next ones at war, and it's just two completely different worlds," said Oakley. "We're really, really fortunate to have him back with the team, and we're glad that he stood up for what he believed in, and we all stood behind him as scary as it was."
Guelph United is gearing up to take on the Halifax Wanderers on May 10 at 7 p.m.
Guelph United could not confirm if Artemenko will be the starting goalie for the game, however, they did say he would be listed on the team's roster.
The Wanderers play in the next level up, the Canadian Premier League
If the local team can best the Maritimers, United will have the right to play Toronto FC in the quarter-finals of the Voyageurs Cup Canadian Championship.
Artemenko was not immediately available for comment following the release from the team he had returned.