The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

Dynamo Kiev moves on

Posted by steigs on September 17, 2008

Awhile back, I wrote of the legend of Dynamo Kiev’s Valeriy Lobanovsky, the coach who built what may have been Eastern Europe’s best team.  Lobanovsky is gone now, passing away in 2002, and Dynamo has struggled to match its previous success without him, a string of disciples failing to meet expectations while Shaktar Donetsk has regularly won the league. 

On the eve of Arsenal’s trip to Kiev to meet Dynamo, Eastern bloc soccer ace Jonathan Wilson checks in with a Guardian piece on the team’s latest coach, one who might be getting it right:

Eight months ago, they made the controversial appointment of a Russian, Yury Semin, who immediately set about clearing away the old guard and imposing his own vision. Much of it is nothing more than a return to the sort of discipline that underpinned Lobanovskyi’s success. “We put up a list of sanctions over each player’s bed,” explained the club president, Ihor Surkis. “If you came late, you had to pay. If there was a smell of alcohol on your breath, you had to pay. After that all the problems fell away themselves. No exceptions or appeals. Before we used to make a big drama out of it but now all is very simple.”

Team spirit and self-discipline are the buzz-words. “After the game the lads gather on the third floor of the stadium and share their impressions from the game,” Surkis went on. “If they really want to, they have a glass of beer right in front of the head coach. Nobody goes for the second one though, nor straight to the bars and nightclubs as it used to be before. I believe that the team administration should enforce a strict regimen on the players, that’s how it used to be under Lobanovskyi. However now we live in a different country. Now we cannot knock on a footballer’s door after 11pm and ask him what is he doing. Nonetheless, the lads have got to have some responsibility themselves for their actions and that is what Mr Semin is working to achieve right now.”

Semin has also brought about significant changes in personnel. The Brazilian centre-back Betao has impressed since his arrival from Corinthians, as has the Croatian midfielder Ognjen Vukojevic, who signed from Dinamo Zagreb. It is the departures, though, that have been the real talking points. “Mr Semin sent Rincon, Rodrigo and Kleber back to Brazil – and they were once our leading players,” said Surkis. “But the team moves on, keeps on notching one success after another. A sporting director from Lyon, Brazilian himself, told me once that two Brazilians in a team is very good, three is a catastrophe and four is a tragedy. That was exactly our situation.”

Maybe it’s not quite exactly the style of Lobanovsky on the field but it’s good to hear one of the grand names of European soccer is on the upswing.  Perhaps they’ll even mount another challenge for the knockout rounds of the Champions League, just like they did in the late ’90s under the old man.

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