Ukraine's Century-Long Quest

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine will finally get the chance to appear in a World Cup for the first time, in Germany, despite a proud footballing history that stretches back over a century.

The first documented evidence of introduction to the game comes from the western Ukrainian city Lviv, where the first football match between the hosts and the visitors Krakow was held on July 14, 1894.

It was a sudden-death match, held at a newly built 7,000-seat stadium in Stryisky Park, which ended in the sixth minute when Wlodzimierz Gatynsky of the host team netted the winning goal.

By the beginning of the 20th century, football was rapidly becoming popular in most regions of Ukraine, which was then part of the Russian empire.

Dozens of teams and leagues were established in almost every Ukrainian city due in large part to the influence of the British companies which were doing business in the region and are credited with popularising the game.

The visit of Turkish side Fenerbahce to Odessa just before the outbreak of World War I opened the international football era at Ukraine.

The guests played three matches in Odessa and two games in the neighbouring town of Mykolaiv, attracting thousands of fans to the overpacked venues.

This initial flourishing of the game however was interrupted by the war and the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, along with the civil war that followed it, which conspired to bring sporting life in Ukraine to a virtual standstill for almost six years.

The revival of the game in Soviet Ukraine in the early 1920s was marked by domination of the team from the republic's new capital - Kharkiv, which won seven Ukrainian titles between 1921 and 1931.

In 1934, Ukraine's capital was moved to Kiev, whose team quickly clinched the leading position in Ukrainian football. Dynamo Kiev became the flagship side of Ukraine's football and was, in essence, the national squad.

Dynamo was the only non-Russian team in the top division of the Soviet league, which was set up in 1936. Kiev managed to clinch the silver medals of the first domestic championship, which Dynamo Moscow won.

However, it took almost two decades for Dynamo to clinch their first serious national success in the Soviet Union when, in 1954, the squad won the Soviet Cup, defeating Spartak Yerevan 2-1 in the final match. Shakhtar Donetsk repeated Kiev's success in 1961-62, winning two Soviet Cups in a row, while Dynamo Kiev became the first non-Moscow side to win the Soviet league in 1961.

In total during the Soviet era Ukrainian teams won 16 domestic titles and 16 Soviet Cups with Dynamo Kiev winning the European Cup Winners' Cup twice in 1975 and 1986 and the European Super Cup in 1975 in a two-leg showdown with Bayern Munich.

That run ended abruptly however in 1991 when the collapse of the Soviet Union plunged football in Ukraine - now an independent state - into severe crisis.

With Ukraine yet to form a FIFA-affiliated national association, several of the countries top players elected to play for Russia as it was designated the official successor of the USSR.

Almost as damagingly, Ukrainian league clubs faced hard times because of cash shortages, which also forced many young, talented and skilled footballers to seek their fortunes abroad.

To complete the set of disasters, the country's flagship side Dynamo Kiev was thrown out of the Champions' League in 1995 after the Spanish referee Antonio Lopez Nieto accused the club officials of a bribery attempt.

However, the years that followed have seen a steady revival of the country's football and in 1996 Dynamo Kiev returned to the European football stage after UEFA lifted the ban.

Meanwhile, thoughtful planning and huge investment by Ukrainian billionaire businessman Rinat Akhmetov, the president of Shakhtar Donetsk, has taken his club to the top of the domestic table.

The government also took part in developing the game, making football an obligatory activity in schools.

A special football textbook was written for the schoolboys, while more than 550 football pitches were constructed around the entire country and over one million footballs were bought to fit the demands of the programme.

Source: AFP


Anonymous said…
It was Włodzimierz Chomicki who scored that first goal, not Wlodzimierz Gatynsky according to some sources.
mees tudios said…
Il tuo blog è terribilmente attraente. Il vostro laboratorio è tremendo. Vorrei essere presente lì. Sono soddisfatto con il vostro contributo. Ti trovarti per ulteriori aggiornamenti. Grazie!

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