Ukraine's Dynamo Kiev Played So Badly, Change Is Possible

KIEV, Ukraine -- The year 2007 was the season Ihor Surkis, the long- suffering president of the Dymnamo Kiev football side, finally got fed up. "I am sick and tired of spending money, and then more money, and not getting results," Surkis told News 24 in an interview. "Things are going to change ... and this time there will be no sacred cows."

Kiev Dynamo owner Ihor Surkis

An irate owner out for blood after having poured buckets of cash into his inept losing side may be unextraordinary in European football, but Surkis' open anger is revolutionary for Dynamo, an organization in many ways unchanged little since the glory days of the Soviet Union.

Once one of Europe's top sides, and the winningest team in Soviet history, Dynamo has hit on hard times of late, dropping game after game to domestic league outsiders, and, as of early December, on track to finish dead last in Champions League Group F.

During the 2006-7 Champions League campaign, Dynamo failed to win a single game in its group, managed only two draws, and allowed 16 goals to five netted. The last time Dynamo won a Champions League match was in 2004.

Domestically Dynamo's season start this year was the worst in the side's 80-year history.

Perenially in first or second place in the league table, as of the Ukrainian Professional League's winter break the club stood in a shameful third place, seven points adrift of the cross-country rival Donetsk Shakhtar.

Painfully, the league losses have come against sides with budgets one-fifth, and less, of Dyanmo's estimated 30-million-dollar a year price tab.

New player recruitment over the years has has been unimpressive, a mix of Latin Americans and Balkan legionnaires mostly, and few able to hold down an unchallenged starting position.

Management has even failed to get all the players to speak Russian - the Serbs and the Croats are willing but the Brazilians aren't.

Ukrainian sports media has had a field day this season reporting about a Dynamo divided into two camps: the Russian-speaking Slavs, and the Portuguese-speaking Brazilians.

"We need to look facts in the face, we are regressing," Surkis said. "And we have no other choice but to take radical steps."

The traditional solution to a side's woes - blame the coach - has not worked for Dynamo.

Since September 2007, Surkis has employed three head coaches; sacking one after a pair of Champions League defeats, only to see the November replacement bow out due to a heart problem.

Hiring a high-profile international head coach is theoretically possible, but difficult due to "chaos and confusion" within the Dynamo organization, making a top foreign coach cagey about taking over such a side, Surkis said in a Dynamomania interview.

This is why, Surkis has declared in recent weeks in television and newspapers, Dynamo players and management soon can expect nothing less than a Soviet-style purge.

"No-one is going to stay on because of what he did for the team in the past," Surkis told the GOL! Television programme. "I have not played football, but I have been the president for years and I have poured my heart and a lot of money into Dynamo ... the thing to ask now is, what can you do for the team in the future?"

Surkis and his energy tycoon brother Hryhory have financed Dynamo at a massive loss since 1994.

Their motivation, both have repeatedly declared, stems from respect of Dynamo's achievements in the 70s and 80s; when the side was a force in Europe, the Surkis brothers were proud Dynamo fans, and legendary Soviet coach Valery Lobanovsky was their hero.

Ukraine's leading Kommanda newspaper has reported frequently on resistance by Lobanovsky associates - assistant coaches, medical specialists, and even groundskeepers still on the Dynamo staff - to reforms suggested by Surkis.

"We need to move beyond Lobanovsky," Surkis was quoted by the authoritative Dynamomania web site as saying. "We can no longer live in the past, and keep wasting money ... and I will not tolerate people who do."

Already two AC Milan front office veterans have joined Dynamo: Revaz Chokhonelidze as the Ukrainian side's new general manager and Vincenzo Pincolini as sporting director.

The hires are unprecedented for Dynamo, which routinely employs foreign players, but up to now never has had on salary a foreign coach or staff member.

"Some (of my employees) may not like the changes that are coming," Surkis said. "But like it or not, they are coming."

Source: DPA

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