Friday, April 4, 2008

How Football Came to Ukraine

I was walking in the park above Dynamo stadium a week ago, and looking at the seats with 1927 written on them, and I was thinking that that isn't that old. It then occured to me that I couldn't remember how football had started in Ukraine.

It isn't that long a story as it happens, although there are stories of impromptu kick-abouts in various places, especially in Odessa, where British sailors would turn up with a football the first official match on Ukrainian territory wasn't until 1894. It took place in Lviv, which at the time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The game was organised as part of an exhibition by Sokil Sports Club and featured a team from Lviv and one from Krakow. It was decided that the game would be played until the first goal was scored, so it only lasted 6 minutes, with the team from Lviv winning. It was obviously a good springboard, as after that teams from Lviv won titles in the Polish and the Hungarian Leagues.

Surprisingly Lviv's most famous club, Karpaty weren't formed until 1963, as a club to compete with the Communist Party's local team SCA. They gained a large support quickly, mainly because SCA were so hated by locals and that they only recruited local players. They quickly became a symbol of Ukrainian Nationalism, and remain so today.

Of the other team competing in the Vische Liha this season Zakarpattiya are the oldest having been established in 1901, although it looks unlikely that they will be competing at this level for much longer. Most of the other clubs have their roots in Communist Party Departments or trade unions. For example, Dnipro were formed as Petrovets in 1925 and represented the Petrovsky factory and Tavriya were formerly the railway union team competing under the name Lokomotiv. Two exceptions to the rule are Arsenal Kyiv and FK Kharkiv. Arsenal obviously have their roots in CSKA (as I wrote before), but weren't a club until 2001, however a club called Arsenal Kyiv competed in the 1950's, representing the local munitions factory. FK Kharkiv, who like Zakarpattiya seem doomed for the drop weren't a club until 2005, although they too have their roots in a club called Arsenal, who they did the dirty on much in the same way that Arsenal did to CSKA

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