Ukraine

Capital: Kiev
Population: 46.1 million
Currency: Ukrainian Hryvnia
Official Language: Ukrainian and Russian
Borders: Russia (east), Poland (west), Slovakia (west), Hungary (west), Belarus (north), Romania (south west), Moldova (southwest)
GNP per Capita: $7,342 (94th in world)
Main Airport: Boryspil State Airport Kiev

The Ukrainian Premier League is the highest division of Ukrainian annual football championship. The league was founded in 1991 and 2008-09 is the league’s 18th season.  There are 16 clubs in the competition. At the end of the season, the bottom two clubs are relegated to the Persha Liha and replaced by the two top clubs from that league.  As of the end of the 2007 season, FC Dynamo Kyiv became the reigning Ukrainian Premier League champion, having won the most titles, 12 in 16 years. SC Tavriya Simferopol won the first championship, and all subsequent titles have gone to either Dynamo or FC Shakhtar Donetsk. Only 5 teams, Dynamo, Shakhtar, FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Tavria, and Metalurh Zaporizhia have participated in all 16 Ukrainian Vyscha Liha competitions.

The league, as well as the lower divisions, is governed by the Professional Football League (PFL) of Ukraine. The PFL is an association that represents 67 Ukrainian professional football clubs, which are represented by 78 teams (a few clubs have more than one team, which play in different divisions. The professional league was organized in 1996; before that, Vyscha Liha was governed by the Football Federation of Ukraine.

As a result of this increase in foreign-born players, clubs in the Vyscha Liha are allowed to field no more than seven foreigners at one time from this season and this limit is expected to worsen to six foreigners. In addition, clubs are subject to a $15,000 fine upon acquiring a foreign player. One of the biggest proponents of the foreigner limit is the national team coach Oleg Blokhin, who threatened to quit the national team if the limit was not made stricter.

The clubs mainly affected by this rule include the few clubs that participate annually in European competitions. They argue that the foreigner-limit is detrimental to the development of Ukrainian football in general. However, as a result of this limit, these clubs have had to increase their efforts finding and training Ukrainian talent that is good enough to represent these teams.

The foreigner-limit itself has also been recently contested by several cases, but primarily by one filed by Georgian international Georgi Demetradze, who argued that the limit impeded on his working rights and is illegal under the Ukrainian constitution. The courts however argued that no case exists, such that players are not guaranteed first-team football, and subsequently the limit is not considered a violation of trade.

Previous Champions
2008-09 Dynamo Kyiv
2007-08 Shakhtar Donetsk
2006-07 Dynamo Kyiv
2005-06 Shakhtar Donetsk
2004-05 Shakhtar Donetsk
2003-04 Dynamo Kyiv
2002-03 Dynamo Kyiv
2001-02 Shakhtar Donetsk
2000-01 Dynamo Kyiv
1999-00 Dynamo Kyiv
1998-99 Dynamo Kyiv
1997-98 Dynamo Kyiv
1996-97 Dynamo Kyiv
1995-96 Dynamo Kyiv
1994-95 Dynamo Kyiv
1993-94 Dynamo Kyiv
1992-93 Dynamo Kyiv
1992 Tavriya Simferopol

Ukrainian Premier League 2008-9
For a overview of who plays where in the Ukraine, go to Footiemap.com to access their excellent Ukranian Football map.  At the half way point of the season Dynamo Kiev continued their excellent form in Europe by leading the league, dropping only 8 points from a possible 51.  In second place were Metalist Kharkiv.  Donestk were some 12 points behind in fifth place.  However, the two rivals met in the semi final of the Ukranian Cup in March 2009, the winner playing the successful team from the Metalist Kharkiv Vorskla Poltava tie.  Dynamo ended up winning the league by fifteen points.

In Europe the Ukranians have had a very good season.  Both Dynamo Kiev and Shaktar finished third in their respective groups and thus went through to the knock out stages of teh UEFA Cup in February.  Dynamo came within 3 minutes of causing an upset in the final game against Arsenal when a winning goal relegated them to 3rd place.

In the Round 32 of the UEFA Cup Dynamo draw Valencia, Doneskt hosted Spurs and Metalist NEC after coming through their first round group.  All made it through and eventually the two great rivals ended up playing each other in the UEFA Semi-final with Donestk eventually winning 2-1 on aggregate and going on to beat Werder Bremen in the last ever UEFA Cup final in Istanbul.

The following teams will compete the 2009-10 championship

FC Arsenal Kyiv from Kiev
The strange named Arsenal used to be known as CKSA Kiev.  Funded by government money for most of the 1980’s.  They play at the 16,750 Dynamo Stadium – pictured left. The stadium is also home toDynamo Kyiv, Ukraines most famous club with 12 Championships.  For more details on the club and the ground see the section on Kiev below.  Whilst work is being carried out on the stadium in preparation for 2012, the club will move some matches to the Obolon Stadium which is in the north of the city and close to the Heroiv Dnipro metro station.

Chornomorets from Odessa
A couple of Ukranian Cup wins during the 1990’s are about all that the club from Odessa can muster.  The Tsentralnyi Stadium is pencilled in as one of the host venues for Euro2012.  The stadium, pictured right, currently holds 34,362 fans.  They were runners up in the 2007 Intertoto Cup, their best performance in Europe.  They also once won the USSR Federation Cup back in 1990, the last time the cup was ever competed for.  Chornomorets was deducted 6 points by FIFA on November 6, 2008. It was confirmed by Ukrainian Premier League on March 2, 2009. After this decision and due to the poor form in the season, Chornomorets was only 2 points above the relegation zone.

Dnipro from Dnipropetrovsk.  Russian champions as recenly as 1988, the club have struggled since the Soviet league broke up.  The stadium was opened on 15 September 2008. The opening ceremony featured a speech by Ukrainian president Victor Yushchenko, a concert performance by a number of famous Ukrainian musicians and two football matches: Veterans of Dynamo Kyiv vs Spartak Moscow veterans, and Dnipro against Dynamo Kyiv. As a present to the club from the city the street that the stadium is situated on was renamed into Kucherevskyi Boulevard, in honour of Dnipro’s late coach Yevhen Kucherevskyi. Dnipro played their first official game on 29 September 2008 against their local rivals FC Metalurh Zaporizhya, but Dnipro lost 1–2. They set a new attendance record for the Ukrainian Premier League 2008–09 season, at 31,000 spectators. Dnipro Arena is a scheduled venue for an upcoming Euro 2012 held in Poland and Ukraine, and it is also the first stadium to be completed for the competition.

Dynamo Kiev – see section below on football in Kiev.

Illichivets – They are based in Azov Sea coastal city of Mariupol. Illichivets joined the Vyscha Liha in the 1997-1998 season. It was previously called FC Metalurh Mariupol. FC Metalurh Mariupol’ changed name to Illichivets during the winter break in the 2002-2003 season.  Before that Azovets Mariupol changed name to Metalurh during the winter break in the 1995-1996 season reestablishing itself as the Footaball Club. The team, Azovets, was established in 1960 after the reformation of the Avanhard Zhdanov (now Mariupol) when another team, Shakhtar Rutchenkove was incorporated. The Avanhard, in its turn, was established in 1936. Illichevets’ were relegated to Persha Liha in 2006-2007 season finishing 15th (out of 16). However, they returned to the Vyscha Liha next season finishing as champions in the 2007/08 season.14th last season, they play at the 12,800 capacity Illichivets stadium.

Karpaty Lviv from Lviv.  Another stadium that looks set to host matches in Euro2012. The club have finished 3rd in the league on two occasions.  The current stadium pictured right, is known simply as the Ukraina and seats 29,000 fans.  In 1970-1977 and 1980, Karpaty played in the Soviet Top League. Karpaty’s best achievement was 4th place in 1976. Karpaty placed 4th twice that year since the season was split into 2 separate championships (spring and fall). Karpaty were primed to take silver that season, but an unexpected loss in the last home game to Zenit Leningrad pushed Karpaty back into 4th place.  While playing in the Soviet First League in 1979, Karpaty were close to repeating their 1969 achievement, when they met Dinamo Moscow in the USSR Cup semi-final. The match which was played in Moscow, went into overtime with a 1:1 score. Dinamo however prevailed, scoring on a penalty kick in extra time.  The thirteen’s season in Ukrainian Premier League became an unfortunate one for Karpaty and in 2003-04 season the team was relegated to Persha Liha. However Karpaty remained there only for two seasons and in the 2005-06 season, the club was successful in taking second place in the Persha Liha, which allowed them to participate in the Vyscha Liha the following year.

Kryvbas Kryvyi from Rih
A mid table team from the city of Rih.  The club have played in the top league for six season.  They play at the Metalurg Stadium which can seat 29,782 and is pictured on the right.The team was founded as FC Kryvyi Rih in 1959. Next year it was part of the republican sport society Avanhard. After couple of years it changed to Hirnyk, before obtaining current name in 1966. They debuted in the Ukrainian Premier League in the 1992-1993 season. They have been in the top league since their debut. Their best finish was in third place in the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons.

Metalist Kharkiv from Kharkiv
Last season the club finished in 3rd place – their best ever finish and qualified for the UEFA Cup where they narrowly lost over two legs to Everton.  They play at the 43,000 capacity multi-use Metalist Stadium. The stadium was originally built in 1926. Recently, it was reconstructed to host Euro 2012 football matches to reach its current capacity.  Founded in 1925, the team worked its way up the rungs of the Soviet football system, eventually being promoted to the Soviet Top League in 1960. After a rough period which included relegation, Metalist was promoted to the Top League again in 1982, where it remained until the league’s dissolution. The team has won the Soviet Cup once, and were runners-up once. They have also won the bronze title of the Ukrainian Premier League three times in a row, starting in the 2006–07 season.

Metalurh Donetsk from Donetsk
Donetsk’s other club, Metalurh have finished 3rd on three occasions in the past 10 years.  Their stadium, confusingly known as the Shahktar stadium holds 31,718 fans.  See thepicture on the right for an overview of the stadium.  Metalurh has its own small stadium named after the club, Metalurh Stadium. In most of the domestic matches, the club plays at the stadium which just barely exceeds the 5,000 mark for a possible attendance. In case when it is expected for an upcoming game to gather a significantly larger crowd, Metalurh plays at the Shakhtar Stadium, which is the property of the well-established club Shakhtar Donetsk. The Shakhtar Stadium is mostly used for the European competitions.

Metalurh Zaporizhzhya from Zaporizhzhya. The club have played in all of the Ukranian championships since inception in the 1990’s.  The Staluych Arena, pictured left, opened its doors in July 2006 and holds nearly 12,000 fans.  In 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine became independent and Ukrainian Premier League was formed. Metalurh was among the founders of the League. The club has remained in the Vyshcha Liga for all 16 seasons with their highest achievement in the 1995/1996 season, taking 5th place. The club’s best performance in a domestic cup came in 2006, when Metalurh reached the final, there they met with Dynamo Kyiv and were beaten 2 goals to none, however this performance allowed them to enter the UEFA Cup next season. Zaporizhstal still remains as a largest club sponsor and actively finances most of club’s expenses.

FC Obolon Kyiv is a Ukrainian football club based in Kiev. It plays home matches at Obolon Stadium. Its home colors are yellow shirts and green shorts; while its away uniforms are all green. Its main sponsor has been the brewery Obolon’, since 1999.  After finishing 3rd in the Ukrainian First League 2001-02 season, Obolon was promoted to the Ukrainian Premier League when that competition expanded to 16 teams for the 2002–03 season. Obolon was relegated to the Ukrainian First League after finishing 15th (out of 16) in the 2004-05 season.  In the 2008–09 season, Obolon finished second in the Ukrainian First League and were promoted to the Ukrainian Premier League for the 2009–10 season. They play at the 4,300 capacity Obolon Arena, close to the Heriov Metro station in the north of the city.  The ground has recently been also used by Arsenal Kiev.

Shakhtar Donetsk from Donetsk.
Shakhtar are now a major name in European football, having played in the Champions League Group Stages on a number of occasions.  For the last several seasons Shakhtar has the highest home attendance in a league, averaging at about 20,000 per game.  In 2009, they became only the second Ukrainian team to win a European competition, and the first to win the UEFA Cup, beating Werder Bremen in the final.  They moved to the new Donbass Arena on 29 August 2009, even though with the speed of construction and schedule it could have been done earlier. 29 August is the Miners day in Ukraine and Donetsk City day, and since the name of the club Shakhtar Donetsk translated to English is “Donetsk Coal Miners”, Donetsk is in the Donbass region, which itself is a mining region, this date was chosen for its symbolism.  American Pop/R&B singer-songwriter Beyonce Knowles performed a show from her I Am… Tour on the opening night of the new stadium. It was Knowles’ first performance in Ukraine.  Shakhtar Donetsk first match at the stadium was a 4–0 victory in a Ukrainian Premier League 2009-10 Round 8 fixture on 27 September 2009 against FC Obolon Kyiv.

SC Tavriya from Simferopil.  The club were actually the first ever Ukrainian champions back in 1992.  They haven’t managed to win any honours since.  Their stadium,pictured right, is known as the Lokomotiv Stadium and holds 19,978 fans in an open air bowl.  Tavria is Crimea’s most successful football club and is the winner of the very first Ukrainian Premier League, making them one out of 3 teams that have ever held this title.  According to local police, the football club is a front for an organized crime gang called the ‘Bashmaki’ (the ‘Shoe gang’), believed to be involved in 50 murders as well as kidnapping. In 2007, the club’s former president, Viktor Karasev, was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for arson and use of illegal weapons.
Vorskla Poltava from Poltava
Since promotion in 1996 the team have finished in the top 3 once, and even made the UEFA Cup in 1997.  Its home games the main team plays at Butovsky Memorial Vorskla Stadium which is named after one of the founders of the modern Olympic games and the International Olympic Committee in 1894. Oleksiy Dmytrovych also was a lieutenant-general of the Russian Army and a teacher. He wrote several books on the physical training in various conditions.  In 2009 Vorskla met Shakhtar Donetsk in the 2009 Ukrainian Cup Final. Mykola Pavlov’s men won the match 1-0 after Vasyl Sachko’s goal in the 49th minute. This is Vorskla’s first ever official title.

Zakarpattia – The team from Uzhgorod, Ukraine. It was inaugurated in 1946 as Spartak Uzhhorod. Later in 1961 it was renamed to Verhovyna and in 1971 to Hoverla. In 1982 it was renamed to Zakarpattia and back to Verhovyna in 1997 for 2 years.  In 2001, Zakarpattia debuted in the Ukrainian Premier League, however, a last place finish saw them demoted back to the Ukrainian First League. They resurfaced again in the 2004-05 and 2007-08 but the club was unable to avoid relegation once again after taking last place.  The team play in the 12,000 capacity Avanhard Stadium.  The stadium was built in 1952 and renovated in 2005. The size of the field is 104X68 m. The architects were Yevhen Valts, Emil Egresi, Sandor Kavac. Currently the stadium is owned primarily by the municipal governmen

Zorya Luhansk from Luhansk. Russian Champions from 1972, Zorya won the Ukrainian first division in 2006 and returned to the Premier League.  They play at the 22,320 all seater Avanhard Stadium – pictured left.  In the season 2005-06 the team won the first place in the Persha Liha, and has been promoted to the Vyscha Liha. Zorya was one of the original twenty teams to debut for the first season of the Ukrainian Premier League. The team played for five seasons until the 1995-96 season in which they finished eighteenth and where sent down to the Persha Liha. Zorya relegated to Druha Liha in 1996-97 season but she returned to Persha Liha in 2003-2004 season.  As Zorya Voroshilovgrad, the club had won the USSR Championship in 1972.

Pictures with thanks from WorldStadiums.com

FOOTBALL IN KIEV

Kiev – Olmpiyskiy Stadion – Capacity:  83,450 All Seater

About the Olmpiyskiy Stadion
The National stadium of Ukraine is one of the biggest in Europe today, and when the country formed part of the Soviet empire, was the flagship of the country, and was even considered as the venue for the 1980 Summer Olympics before a decision was made to build the Luzhniki in Moscow.

The stadium was over 10 years in the planning, and even when opened in 1923, was not really used and in fact was completely rebuilt just 15 years after opening.  In 1936 the stadium re-opened as the 50,000 capacity Red Stadium.  Unfortunately the re-opening co-incided to the day of the German invasion of the city, and so the re-opening was postponed until 1948 – although the city’s council agreed to honour the tickets purchased some 7 years before!

In the 1960’s the stadium was expanded to accommodate over 100,000 – although facilities were very basic – simple wooden benches and no roof were the order of the day and renamed as the Kiev Central Stadium.  More work was carried out in the late 1970’s in readiness for the 1980 Olympics, which saw the stadium host a number of the football matches.

Apart from a lick of paint, nothing really changed with the stadium during the period before and after the 1991 Ukrainian declaration of independence.  In 1996 the stadium was renamed the Olimpiysky (The Olympic), although it has been also refered to as the Tsentralny (Central), Respublykanskyi (Republic) or even the Lobanovsky after Dynamo’s great manager.

A final redevelopment was completed in 1999 where the capacity was reduced to 83,450.  The stadium today is a vast bowl – similar to stadiums in St Petersburg and even pre-Olympics in Athens.  A running track does mean that you are quite a way from the action, but still views are good.  The lack of a roof does leads to some wet and chilly nights, but if Ukraine and Poland are given the opportunity to host Euro2012 when the final decision is made in June 2007 then the much awaited roof will be added.  On the rare occasion that the stadium has been full in the last 20 years the atmosphere is one of the best in eastern Europe.

Who plays there?
The Olimpiyskiy is used for all Ukrainian national home matches, as well as high profile games features Dynamo Kiev.  Dynamo’s home stadium, the Lobanovsky Dynamo is located around a 10 minute walk away from the stadium.

In the last decade the stadium has hosted some big European nights for Dynamo, none more so that the Shevchenko/Rebrov inspired run to the Champions League semi-final in 1999 when the team beat the likes of Panathinaikos, Arsenal and Real Madrid at home before losing 4-3 on aggregate to Bayern Munich in the last sell out at the stadium.

The history of Dynamo Kiev is remarkable as they rose from formation as an amateur team in 1927 to arguably the greatest Soviet team ever.  Despite being part of the Soviet Police social society, the club never had the same level of paranoia about it as other such teams in Berlin and Moscow.  In fact it wasn’t until just before the Second World War that the club began to rise in stature.  During 1942, the team had earnt a reputation as the strongest in Russia, and so when the Nazi’s invaded, in a move to crush local moral, a series of match esagainst the famished and weakened team were arranged against the Nazi’s.  Kiev beat allcomers, including the Luftwaffe team which resulted in many of the team being imprisoned in hard labour camps.

After the war the club continued to impress within the Soviet amateur leagues.  When the newly formed Professional leagues started in the 1960’s, Kiev soon started making an impression.  They won their first Soviet title in 1961, before capturing a hatrick of titles between 1966 and 1968.  In total under the Soviet banner the club won 13 Championships, 9 Cups and 3 Super Cups.  The club also became the first Soviet team to win a European trophy when they captured the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1975, repeating the feat in 1986.

When the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991 Kiev became the strongest team within Ukraine.  With little or no opposition in the newly formed Ukrainian league, Kiev won every title between 1993 and 2001.  They subsequently won it again in 2003 and 2004 before having to be content to play second fiddle to Shatkar Donestk in 2005 and 2006.

Under inspirational coach Valery Lobanovsky who originally joined the club in 1973, a number of young stars were developed before moving on to prominence abroad.  Not only was there Andry Shevchenko and Sergei Rebrov, but some of the stars of the early 1980’s including current national team coach Oleg Blokhin, Andrei Kanchelskis, Oleg Salenko and Oleg Mikhalichenko.

Despite making it to the Champions League group stages again in 2008 where they will play Arsenal, Porto and Fenerbahce times are very tight at the club with average attendances dropping to less than 5,000 for the first time in their history.

How to get there
The Stadium has its own metro stop, called Respublikanski which is just two stops south on the blue metro line from Khreschatk.  You can also get to the stadium within a ten minute walk of the metro stop on the green line at Palats Sportu.

For a more detailed overview of football in Kiev, go to Footiemap.com to access their map of football in the city.

Getting a ticket
With Dynamo’s failure to make it into the Champions League in recent years, the number of games played at the stadium have been restricted to the national team’s, although these have also been played away from the capital in recent years.  The recent games against Georgia and Scotland have sparked some interest when over 50,000 were in the stadium for both games.

Tickets for most games go on sale from the stadium concourse around a week before the game.  They are also sold from a small kiosk close to the entrance of Palats Sportu metro station.

Kiev – Valeriy Lobanovskyi Stadium – Capacity: 16,888 All Seater

About the ValeriyLobanovskyi Stadium
The Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium is a multi-use stadium in Kiev, Ukraine. It is currently used mostly for football matches, and is the home of FC Dynamo Kyiv. The stadium holds 16,888 people, and was built in 1934. A reconstruction plan has been approved to increase the number of seats to 30,000, and to add a roof over the stand. The stadium is used for most domestic games and minor European games, while Dynamo Kyiv play their major European games at the Olimpiysky Sport Complex, due to the limit of the current seating capacity at the Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium.

Who Plays There?
Not only is the stadium home to Dynamo Kiev for their regular games, but it is also home to the amusingly names FC Arsenal Kiev.  The club currently participates in the Ukrainian Premier League, where it has appeared since the 1995-96 season.In 1996 two teams split into CSKA Kiev and FC Borysfen Boryspil. After 2001 season CSKA Kiev underwent another reformation. Its first team was bought out by the city’s government, changing name from CSKA to Arsenal. The club’s greatest achievements include a successful UEFA Cup run in the season of 2001-02, defeating the now defunct Finnish side FC Jokerit and Serbian giants Red Star Belgrade. The club has also managed to appear in the domestic cup’s finals twice (1998 and 2001), losing both times: first against FC Dynamo Kiev and then against FC Shakhtar Donetsk.

The club was owned by the city’s government, which has sought to abandon its numerous sports holdings. Because of this, Arsenal has been struggling significantly over the past few years financially, resorting to loaning many of its players. Throughout 2006, the club faced major financial problems and in May 2007 it was announced that the club will be demoted, however soon afterwards it was revealed that Arsenal was purchased by Ukrainian oligarch, Vadym Rabynovich. The new owner quickly replaced the manager, and started actively financing the club and its transfers.

How to get there?
The stadium is a 5 minute walk north east of the Olympic stadium, on the banks of the river.  The nearest metro is Respublikanski which is just two stops south on the blue metro line from Khreschatk.  You can also get to the stadium within a ten minute walk of the metro stop on the green line at Palats Sportu.

For a more detailed overview of football in Kiev, click here to access Footiemap.com’s map of football in the city.

Getting a ticket
With crowds rarely break the 3,000 mark at the stadium so tickets are bought on matchday from the small booths around the stadium.

Getting around
Kiev’s city centre is relatively small and most of the attractions, restaurants and bars are located in the area around Maiden Square.  The metro system is as impressive in places as Moscow’s, and as cheap with a single journey costing around 0.50UAH.

Main Airport – Boryspil State Airport (KBP)
Telephone:              +380 44 490 47 77
Website:                  http://www.airport-borispol.kiev.ua

The main international airport of Ukraine is located 29km east of the city centre.  It has been open since 1959 and has been an important gateway to the south western corner of the Soviet empire since.  The airport has recently been expanded and now boasts two terminals, with a third currently under construction.  It is served by mainly national flag carriers, including BA from London Heathrow and Ukraine Airlines from London Gatwick and Heathrow.  You can also get their via Riga with Air Baltic from London Gatwick quite cheaply.

Regular buses run to and from the city centre terminating at the central railway station.  A taxi will cost around 100UAH to the city centre.

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