From saving goals to saving lives: The Scottish Threave Rovers footballer helping de-mine Ukraine

A Scottish goalkeeper has swapped saving shots for saving lives in Ukraine by helping to de-mine dangerous areas.

Kieran McCulloch plays for the West of Scotland League side Threave Rovers but missed the end of last season to support the HALO Trust.

The Scottish charity which works to make areas safe by clearing landmines in war-torn and post-war countries.

Mr McCulloch, from Dumfries, was enlisted to go to Ukraine due to his job as a logics and procurement officer for the charity - which is working in areas around Kyiv to remove explosive devices.

In his role, the 30-year-old has been helping supply HALO’s team of 400 Ukrainian's with equipment like metal detectors, bullet-proof vests, and armoured vehicles.

He said: "It's our local staff that do the hard work, they're the real heroes, they're the ones on the ground working really hard.

"Their lives have been horrifically affected in so many ways yet they're still out there everyday trying to make their country a better place."

Mr McCulloch came home from his second deployment last month and is hoping to win back the No1 jersey for Castle Douglas-based Threave Rovers.

He said: "As strange as it sounds, I actually find football’s probably a lot more stressful.

'If you’ve got the manager or the crowd screaming and bawling at you because you’ve not caught the ball properly, I find that more stressful than when an airstrike is coming.

"If you make one mistake in goals then your team is 1-0 down, there’s absolutely no hiding place.

"As a goalkeeper, your job is to get in the way of shots, but when I’m out working with HALO in places like Ukraine, it’s the total opposite."

It's the first time Mr McCulloch has worked in an active war zone despite previously having gone to Somalia, Armenia and the West Bank.

While working in a city called Vinnytsia, about 170miles from Kyiv, three Russian missiles struck just miles from where those working with the HALO team were based, killing up to 40 people.

The amateur goalie said: "When you hear air raid sirens for the first time and get text alerts through saying ‘take cover’ that is when you realise you could be blown up any second.

"My job with HALO can be stressful and Ukraine has been full-on, but it’s rewarding because you are helping make peoples’ lives safer."

Threave Rovers coach Kevin Somerville said: "I think when he comes back it's good that he gets to come here, relax and decompress from that high pressure environment.

"He seems to come and enjoy, unload and have a bit of a chat with a few of the guys, but we're all really proud of the job he does, and proud that somebody associated with the Rovers is doing something that important for the international community."

The work of the HALO Trust is being supported by the government which has provided £2 million funding .

The UK’s Minister for Europe, Graham Stuart, said: "The UK Government is proud to be supporting The HALO Trust’s world-leading demining work.

"The UK stands in solidarity with Ukraine against Putin’s illegal and inhumane war by pooling expertise from across Britain to make a real difference through our £220 million humanitarian aid response.

"People from Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland stand behind international support for Ukraine in its fight against Putin’s illegal and inhumane war."

Mr McCulloch is due to return to Ukraine later in the year.

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