October 3, 2007

Ukrainian football clubs (hand-drawn map circa 2003).

Filed under: Hand Drawn Maps,Ukraine — admin @ 9:27 pm


    In January 2004, I was all “mapped out” in terms of US sports.  My brother was into the Premier League (an Arsenal fan), and I decided to try doing a map of English football.  Suffice to say I was hooked.  I swiftly turned into a Portsmouth FC fan (I have a weakness for colorful yet struggling teams), and began following international football. While I was doing research on the internet, I stumbled across a site about Ukrainian football  (“”).  As a Ukrainian- American, I felt duty-bound to do a map on Ukraine as well.  In retrospect, there’s a few things I’d do different today (like make Shakhtar’s crest bigger), but I’m pretty happy with the result.   Especially since I decided to put Zorya Luhansk on the map, even though they were in the second division at the time.  Zorya made it back into the top flight last season.  They were one of only 3 Ukrainian clubs to ever have won the USSR first division title, in 1972.  Plus I love the Bolshevik poster-art quality of their charging-train-engine logo (sadly no longer in use).  Other retro logos I used were with Metalist Kharkiv. Chornomorets Odesa, and Tavriya Simferopol. 

   The biggest USSR title winner was from Ukraine: Dynamo Kyiv.  This club from the capital won it 13 times, the first in 1960, and the last in 1990.  Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, from central Ukraine, won the USSR league twice, both late in the Soviet era, in 1987 and 1989. 

   Ukrainian players invariably accounted for around 25% to 40% of the squad on any USSR side, but very few people in the west knew this.  With independence, the world can see that Ukraine produces some pretty decent footballers.  Their good showing in the 2006 World Cup proved this, as they finished in the top 8 teams.  Just getting there was a major accomplishment.  They had to beat out 2004 Euro-champions Greece, and 2002 World Cup 3rd place finishers Turkey, plus Denmark, in their tough qualifying group.

   The manager of the Ukrainian national team is Oleg Blokhin, the most capped player of the Soviet Union.  The most prominent Ukrainian is 2004 European Footballer of the Year Andriy Shevchenko, who got his start with Dynamo Kyiv, before making his name at AC Milan.  He now plays for Chelsea, but has had problems adapting to the English style.  Andriy Voronin became a top striker with Bayer Leverkusen, and is now at Liverpool.  Anotoliy Tymoschuck was the midfield anchor at Shakhtar. He was sold for a record amount to Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg, who currently lead the league [Tymoschuk went on to Bayern Munich later].   

   Ukraine won its independence in 1991.  Since 1992, Ukraine has had its own league, the Vyscha Liha (Ukrainian Premier League).  Simferopol, a small club from Crimea, won the first, hastily assembled short season.  After that, Dynamo Kyiv won it 9 straight seasons.  Shakhtar Donetsk came under new ownership (Rinat Akhmetov, the richest man in Ukraine) and began improving.  They finally won a league title in 2002, and have been battling Dynamo Kyiv for the title each year since.  They have become the big 2, to the detriment of the rest the league.  Dynamo have 12 titles, Shakhtar have 3.  Dynamo won it last season, but have played poorly in the Champions League for 3 seasons running.  Meanwhile Shakhtar, with their swank new training facilities, have been able to attract a higher caliber of player.  Brazilians feature large in their squad, though they just lost Elano to Manchester City. Brandao is one of 6 from Brazil on the team, and they recently signed the iconoclastic Italian striker Christiano Lucarelli.  They have been steadily improving on the European stage, and could finally advance to the group of 16 this season.  They just beat Celtic at home, and Benfica in Portugal.  Meanwhile last season’s 3rd-place team, Metalist Kharkiv, went to England and held Everton to a 1-1 draw, in the UEFA Cup.  Dnipro is up and coming, and have been the only other club besides the big 2 to supply starters to the national squad these days.  They could very well finish in the top two this season, and start to weaken the hegemony of the big 2. 

For the 2007-2008 season, UEFA ranks Dynamo Kyiv 63rd in Europe.  Shakhtar is ranked 69th, and Dnipro is 83rd.   Ukraine’s pro league is ranked 11th by UEFA (country ranking for league participation), up from 13th place.

Check out the September 2007 issue of World Soccer.  This magazine has a nice feature on Ukraine’s Premier League, complete with map and thumbnail profiles of the 16 clubs in this season.   

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