Brotherly love, goalkeeping crises & refereeing scandals: The A-Z of Ukrainian football

As Euro 2012 draws ever closer, FourFourTwo.com's Eastern European expert Mark Gilbey tells us more about the football history of the two host nations. Here's, Ukraine...

A - Andriy Shevchenko is arguably the greatest Ukrainian footballer of all time. The 35-year-old earned himself a reputation as one of Europe’s most feared strikers at Dynamo Kyiv and AC Milan. A Ballon d’Or winner, “Sheva” has scored 67 goals in European competitions and is his country’s leading marksman. Just don’t mention that penalty in Istanbul. Or Chelsea.

B - An issue some people grumble about is the brotherly love of Ihor and Hryhory Surkis. The former owns Dynamo Kyiv, while his elder sibling is the president of the Football Federation of Ukraine, leading to accusations of favouritism towards the capital city club. Hryhory recently announced that he would not stand as a candidate for the presidency at this September’s FFU congress.

C - Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk have been the dominant forces in a post-independent Ukraine. Not since Chornomorets Odesa were runners-up in 1995/96 has any other side finished in the top two. In each of the last six years, Metalist Kharkiv have been bronze medallists.

D - Thirteen times a champion of the Soviet Union and winner of three European trophies, Dynamo Kyiv are the country’s most successful club. Bilo-Syni (the Blue-and-Whites) have won another 13 league titles since independence, too.

E - Three Ukrainians have been crowned European Footballer of the Year: Oleh Blokhin (1975), Ihor Belanov (1986) and Andriy Shevchenko (2004).

F - Fix. Whispers of match-fixing, or dogovornyak, continue to dog the Ukrainian game. A recent survey by FIFPro revealed that almost eight per cent of players had been approached to fix a match.

G - National team coach Oleh Blokhin has something of a goalkeeping crisis on his hands for Euro 2012. First choice keeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy is injured, as is Andriy Dykan, while Oleksandr Rybka has been handed a two-year ban by Uefa after failing a doping test.

H - The Halytsko-Volynske derby between Karpaty Lviv and Volyn Lutsk is the biggest game in western Ukraine.

I - Premier League outfit Illychivets Mariupil from south-eastern Ukraine have become something of a de facto reserve side for Shakhtar Donetsk, with Mircea Lucescu sending a sizeable contingent out on loan there. Eight lined up against the Pitmen when the pair met recently.

A statue of Welshman John Hughes, founder of Donetsk

J - It was the British workers of Welsh coal and steel magnate John Hughes – the founding father of Donetsk – who introduced football to local miners. In time, they formed Shakhtar Donetsk.

K - Volodymyr Khomytsky scored the only goal in the first official match on Ukrainian soil for Lviv against a side representing Kraków on 14 July 1894.

L - Journeyman striker Lucky Idahor has played in every corner of the country. The Nigerian started out at Dynamo Kyiv in central/northern Ukraine, had a spell at Karpaty Lviv (west), then southern side Tavriya Simferopol before joining Zorya Luhansk (east) this season.

M - As a youngster, Yaya Touré played for Donetsk’s other Premier League side, Metalurh Donetsk, when his agent was vice-president of the club. After joining in 2003 he went on to make 37 appearances for Metalurh before signing for Olympiacos.

N - The final of the European Championships will be held at the renovated NSC Olympiyskiy Stadion. Since the turn of the year it has also been used by Dynamo Kyiv for their home matches.

O - Only one player has won the league with two different teams: defender Oleksandr Holovko (Tavriya Simferopol and Dynamo Kyiv).

P - If Ukraine wasn’t co-hosting this summer’s European Championships, they probably would have lost in the play-off stage of qualifying. Four times since gaining independence Ukraine has fallen at the final hurdle. These defeats have come in qualifying for the 1998, 2002 and 2010 World Cups, and Euro 2000.

Sheva reacts to defeat to Greece in a World Cup 2010 qualification play-off

Q - Q is for quota. In 2007 the Premier League introduced a limit on foreign players; clubs must now field a minimum of four Ukrainians.

R - It seems we are never far from a refereeing scandal in Ukraine. Pierluigi Collina was recruited in an attempt to improve standards, but former Volyn Lutsk manager Vitaliy Kvartsyanyi recently spoke of the refereeing system being “corrupt from head to toes”.

S - Rather than money-spinning trips to the Far East, Ukrainian clubs spend pre-season on gruelling training camps known as sbory, where they are whipped into shape with continuous exercise routines, training sessions and friendlies. Usually these take place somewhere around the Mediterranean, yet they are anything but a holiday.

T - The first champions of Ukraine after the fragmentation of the Soviet Union were Tavriya Simferopol.

U - Ultras. Passionate fans creating the atmosphere at matches with singing, flares and banners. With Euro 2012 and Uefa’s stadium regulations on the horizon, their choreographed displays have been a big talking point in Ukraine.

V - One of the game’s most pioneering managers, Valeriy Lobanovskiy had three spells in charge of Dynamo Kyiv over a 30-year period. His statue stands outside the stadium that bears his name. A brilliant tactician and renowned as something of a disciplinarian, Lobanovskiy died in 2002 aged 63 after collapsing in the dugout during a game in Zaporizhya.

W - Shakhtar Donetsk’s right-footed, left-sided midfielder Willian was linked with Chelsea in January and proved himself to be the league’s most useful player this season. The Brazilian created 16 goals for his Shakhtar Donetsk team-mates, as well as scoring five times himself.

X - Metalist Kharkiv have followed Shakhtar Donetsk’s lead by building a team with a large South American contingent. Their Brazilian captain Cleiton Xavier is one of 11 South Americans at the club (five Brazilians, six Argentineans) that includes his fellow countryman Edmar, who recently took Ukrainian citizenship and made his debut for the national team against Sweden. The midfielder was on the stand-by list for Euro 2012.

Y - Two youngsters to keep an eye out for at Euro 2012 are Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk’s Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko of Dynamo Kyiv - both 22.

Z - Zorya Luhansk are the Premier League’s easternmost team. Twinned with Cardiff, the city of Luhansk grew out of the iron works Scottish industrialist Charles Gascoigne founded there towards the end of the 18th century. As Zorya Voroshilovgrad, they were crowned champions of the Soviet Union in 1972.

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