Thursday, March 27, 2008

Who Supports Who in Kyiv

Only my own ramblings, but here goes.


When I first came to Kyiv in 2000 CSKA were the team I decided to support. At the time they had a pretty good team, but very little support, due to the dominance of Dynamo. What support they had seemed to centre around eccentrics, dissatisfied youths and old guys with nothing else to do and out of towners, who didn't want to support Dynamo, but would probably prefer to watch Karpaty. In other words they were the underdogs, and what British person doesn't like an underdog?

Like most ex- army teams they were woefully short of cash and the stadium showed it. Over the next year the scoreboard disintegrated to the point where the kids behind the goal wrote the score in cardboard and put it up on the holes that had appeared on the once electronic device, a Cup semi-final in November 2001 with Dnipro went to penalties and the referee had to play it at the end where the floodlights were better (about 60 watts) and one time an old geezer told a kid off for running across the stand, as he may have fallen through it, he was only half joking.

On the other hand, they had a pretty accomplished side and in 2001 had a decent run in the UEFA cup culminating in a win over the mighty Red Star Belgrade before going out to Brugge.

Things were not well at the club though, they lost some fans when in that season they lay down and died for Dynamo in the Kyiv Derby, losing 5-1 at home and the mayor of Kyiv at the time, Omelchenko fancied having a football club to play with. He was never going to get his hands on Dynamo, so he focused his attention on CSKA. However, Central Sports Klub of the Army was not a hip name to be associated with and what went on in the winter break of 2001 was confusing to say the least. Finally it emerged that a new club, Arsenal Kyiv would take CSKA's place in the Vische Liha and CSKA would be relegated to the First division. Obviously, most of the star players left, and not to Arsenal, and what had looked like a partnership never happened, leaving CSKA languishing in the division that their second team had been playing in only 3 months before.

Arsenal managed to pick up some of the fans who had left CSKA after the derby debacle, people who liked football, but not the arrogance of Dynamo and people like me. A lot of people said that they would continue following CSKA, but the reality was we were not going to give up football and games in the first division are played mainly on weekdays, so if you have a job you can't go.

CSKA are now at the wrong end of the first division and are playing mainly at Dynamo's training camp outside of Kyiv at Konchazaspa. If they get relegated it will probably, sadly spell the end for them. They will go the same way as most ex-army clubs in Eastern Europe, with CSKA of Moscow, another minor club who have had their fates changed by Abramovich's billions being the exception.

Now they still have a hardcore fanbase, but it is made up of people who like mindless violence a lot more than football, in general.

Arsenal Kyiv

After the aforementioned winter break I started watching Arsenal Kyiv at Respublikansky , at first the crowd seemed to be made up of people who were just curious about what was going on and school kids on a freebie and a few old faces from CSKA. After a while I noticed a banner for an internet site appear, so I contacted them straight away, with a view to writing an article about them for another internet site. It was a good move, as it led to me meeting some of the people who have become my best friends in Kyiv. They had a small, but keen ultra movement, who mixed and still mix English and Italian styles of fandom. What also struck me was that most of them seemed intelligent and there was none of the stupid racism that was rife in Ukrainian football at the time. The fans come from all different walks of life and different regions of Kyiv, which has its flip side in that they can't really agree where the club should play, when and if they find a permanent home.

Obolon Kyiv

Finding out anything about Obolon was a nightmare, me and Phil even went to the part of town where they are from in search of the ground at the time, Smena. However, we had to give up and drink vodka in the street, purely for medicinal reasons. I would have given up completly after that, but Phil was more persistant and finally made contact with Andriy, who sold us some crappy scarves and took us to our first Obolon game.

This was in April 2001 and incongruously was held in Respublikansky Stadium. At the time Obolon were in the second division, but were making big steps towards promotion, in that game we saw them win against Cherkasiy's second team and we saw them win every time after that.

We even managed to get some Obolon 2 games in at Smena.

At that time it was strange to see such a minor team playing in such a big stadium, and the crowd seemed to be made up of passers-by who had spotted the beer van outside, us and ex-Rangers player and now national team coach, Oleksiy Mikhailichenko.

Obolon were gaining momentum though, and with promotion came a wider fan base, made up mainly of people with relations at the brewery, and home games were played outside of Kyiv in a village school's stadium at Shastliva, as they tried to find a ground of their own. It was always an adventure getting up there and was very often fuelled by large amounts of alcohol, which added to the match atmosphere, although what I was doing leading a pitch invasion in a game against Mikolaev is still a mystery to me.

Promotion followed promotion and Obolon found themselves in the Vishe Liha, where they hung around for a couple of seasons, however plans for the new stadium ran a ground and they ended up in the same position as Arsenal, playing at Dynamo and Respublikansky. They managed to put on one game against Krybas in 2002 at their stadium (you don't have to ask the score), however relegation followed.

Since then Obolon have climbed back to top of the first division, and although they don't seem to want it, promotion seems to be already in the bag. The old fan club seems to have disappeared and now the fans seem to be made up of people from the local area and alcoholics who enjoy the cheap booze ( they might lose these fans if they get promotion, as boozing at grounds is strictly restricted in the Vische Liha nowadays.)

Dynamo Kyiv

Who supports Dynamo? Everybody and nobody. Dynamo in the Soviet times were a symbol of Ukrainian pride and their past glories are the both legendary and mythical, something I will divulge at a later date.

I have had a season ticket for Dynamo in the past and barely miss a home game, however there is something dislikeable about the fans.

Most of them tend to be day trippers, who would rather take photos with their new scarves outside the ground than watch any football. They also think foreigners shouldn't be there or that you should join in with the neo-nazi elements in the crowd for being English.

I'm sure some of them are nice people and they seem to be playing nice football again. I just wish other visitors to Kyiv would take timeout to get a real experience of Ukrainian football rather than the Dynamo version.

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