The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

Archive for the ‘Ukraine’ Category

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.


Posted in Champions League, Ukraine | Leave a Comment »

Kiev 2012?

Posted by steigs on July 3, 2008

So the Euro party is over for another four years.  Sigh.  Such a good show.  Hail the “never-say-die” Turks!  And the temporarily fabulous Dutch!  And, above all, viva Espana!

One side-effect of Italy’s scandals was the derailing of the country’s bid to host Euro 2012, opening the door to the unlikely pairing of Poland and the Ukraine as hosts.  While both have had respectable teams of late, neither has quite the tourist draw or infrastructure of Switzerland and Austria.  Their soccer infrastructures are weak as well.  So their bids depend in part on successful investment in stadiums and roads and so on.

UEFA head Michel Platini is visiting the co-hosts this week.  Poland?

“We are carefully carrying out the plan that we have adopted and that has been accepted by UEFA,” Tusk said Wednesday at a joint news conference with Michel Platini, the president of European soccer’s governing body. “We still have a lot of work to do, including on stadiums, airports and hotels. They are very ambitious projects, but I assured the president (Platini) that we will do it.”

Poland must build stadiums in Warsaw, Gdansk and Wroclaw, and also overcome gaps in roads and other public infrastructure.

Ah, but what’s the situation in the Ukraine, a nation still riven by the “Orange Revolution” and its aftermath?

Well, they’re having a lot of trouble getting the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, due to host the final in four years, renovated. 

Two companies are vying for the right to renovate the Olympic Stadium in Kiev that will host the final of Euro 2012, Ukraine’s sports minister said on Wednesday.

A special commission is due to choose the main contractor on Thursday, ahead of an executive board meeting of organisers UEFA and next week’s visit to Ukraine by UEFA president Michel Platini.

Delays in renovating the stadium have been a focal point of concern that the country has been too slow preparing for Euro 2012 and media speculation is rife Ukraine and Poland could lose the right to co-host the tournament.

This sort of problem is making people wonder if the two countries will be able to host — or will the tourney be moved to another country which already has the infrastructure?  The Scots have their hand up to volunteer to serve as a Plan B.  That’s one way to avoid another qualifying group that includes both of the previous World Cup finalists!

Much as I love Scotland, and would love to sneak over to a Euro tourney in Glasgow and Edinburgh, I do hope they get things in order in Kiev.  One of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever attended was in Kiev:


It is a match-up of mid-table teams. Obolon is in yellow jerseys with black shorts. Borosphyl is in white. They represent the town where the Kiev airport is located, about 30 miles away.

In general, the Rough Guide does appear to be right about the fans, though. I see more Dynamo scarves than Obolon gear. There is a single group of Borosphyl supporters down in front with American style pom-poms, a bunch of cheerful junior high kids. I feel for them. My Ukrainian guidebook is more than 300 pages long and the only time it mentions their home town is in reference to the airport. Must be a whole lot of nothing there, just a short ride away from the metropolis of Kiev, and it must feel worse to have all those travelers bound for faraway places passing through every day. I am reminded of my own home town, hours from Los Angeles but still part of the vast Southern Californian media market. We were bombarded with ads for events we could never attend, always being made aware there was a much bigger, more exciting world than ours.

For more on that, plus a visit to Kiev’s complex of monastery caves, read on after the jump!

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Euros, Ukraine | Leave a Comment »

The Famous Dynamo — Defending the Honor of Kiev

Posted by steigs on May 12, 2008

The MLS has a mixed, at best, history of team names.  (San Jose Clash?  Really?)  One that’s good, I think, is the Houston Dynamo.  Granted, it was after taking a mulligan (remember Houston 1836?) but it’s got some connection to the energy industry in the region and has some international flair.  Plus, I like the orange.  Reminds me of the Dutch.

In my travels, I managed to see a but of the most famous Dynamo team in the five billion person party, Dynamo Kiev.  These days, they’re one of the two powers of the Ukrainian league, presently waging their usual battle to the wire with Shaktar Donetsk for the championship.  (One point back with a game to go.) 

Want to hear more about Dynamo, their mad genius of a coach, and the legendary “death match?”  Read on after the jump!

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Ukraine | 4 Comments »

Falling for the Westfalen

Posted by steigs on April 24, 2008

This weekend I was disappointed to see that Bayern Munich won the German Cup, with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund.  The Dortmunders have had a rough few years, due largely to financial problems, and could have used a cup win to cheer up their massive fanbase. 

Dortmund is in the industrial Ruhr region, a center of…brewing (mmm), among other industries.  I’d never heard of the place before I started paying attention to the Bundesliga and certainly wouldn’t have spent a day there if it weren’t for soccer.  But I’m glad I did and I’d like to get back to the Westfalen for another game one of these days — it’s one of the biggest and most enjoyable stadiums in European soccer.  I was there during better days for Borussia Dortmund, as you will see if you read on after the jump, and also got to see two Czech stars who would later torment the US at the 2006 World Cup.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Champions League, Germany, Ukraine | 1 Comment »