Israeli youth soccer coach killed fighting Russians in Ukraine war

Former Maccabi Be'er Sheva youth coach enlisted in Ukrainian army and killed in combat; family and friends in Israel ask for help retrieving his body, which is believed to be held by the Russians

Shay Mogilevsky|
Dima Fialka, an Israeli national and a youth soccer coach, was killed in battle in Ukraine in recent days after going off to fight in the Russo-Ukrainian war.
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  • The 39-year-old previously worked as a coach for Israeli club Maccabi Be'er Sheva's youth academy before returning to his native Ukraine where he also coached in the western city of Lviv.
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    דימה פיאלקה ואיגור ירקייב
    דימה פיאלקה ואיגור ירקייב
    Dima Fialka
    (Photo: Private album)
    With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Fialka enlisted in the Ukrainian army, and according to a statement by his current club FC Dynamo Lviv, he was "killed by an enemy bullet."
    "Fialka was one of the first to defend Ukraine after the Russian occupiers attacked, he fought for our peace," the statement read.
    One of Fialka's closest friends in Israel Igor Yarkayev, who also works as a coach for city rivals Hapoel Be'er Sheva's youth academy, asked for help retrieving Fialka's body, which was believed to be held by the Russians.
    "From what we know, he was killed on September 1. His mother and younger brother remained in Be'er Sheva. From what I heard, since news got out about his death, his mother hasn't left her room," Yarkayev said.
    "There is also a problem with his body, as far as we know, it is in the hands of the Russians. We are in talks with relevant authorities to retrieve his body, and we ask anyone who can assist to help us."
    2 View gallery
    דימה פיאלקה ואיגור ירקייב
    דימה פיאלקה ואיגור ירקייב
    Dima Fialka and Igor Yarkayev
    (Photo: Private album)
    Yarkayev met Fialka when he first arrived at Maccabi Be'er Sheva's youth academy, where the two worked together.
    "In 2015, he left for Ukraine to nurse his grandmother. She was sick and he was supposed to come back after a while, but he met his wife there and decided to stay. He started to coach at several clubs in Lviv, and recently took a training course in Donetsk to obtain a UEFA coaching license, but just as the course was about to wrap up, war broke out," he said.
    "Once the war started, he enlisted. We spoke a month ago and he told me he wasn't in a combat zone yet, because was still in basic training."
    Yarkayev said he last met Fialka about two months before the outbreak of the war.
    "I flew with my wife and he hosted us at his home. I came to travel and have a good time, but he only wanted to learn about my training methods at Hapoel Be'er Sheva," Yarkayev said.
    "We sat at a café, and I told him, 'let's have fun and talk about life,' but all he wanted was to talk about training. He was an amazing guy. It's very tragic."
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