Dynamo Kyiv, NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium

Soviet Giants Dynamo Kyiv were formed in 1927 as part of the Dynamo Sports Society as the club of the GPU – Soviet Political Police. The GPU was the predecessor of the KGB, the USSR’s famed security agency from 1954 to the fall of communism in 1991. The club is synonymous with the “Death Match” of 1942, a Kyiv All-Stars team featuring 8 Dynamo and 3 Lokomotiv players. The club known as Start was made up of workers from Bakery No 3 and during the Nazi occupation of Kyiv played games against various German teams and their allies. After a run of wins it was announced that Start would face the undefeated Luftwaffe team, Flakelf. Despite a large build up in the press, Start’s 5-1 win wasn’t reported. The teams final team was against Rukh which, ended in an 8-0. After the game some of the players were arrested by the Gestapo, tortured and sent to the labour camps at nearby Syrets. Dynamo, one of the most famous Eastern Block footballing names were the first non-Moscow side to win the Soviet Top League in 1961. With future manager Valeriy Lobanovskyi and captained by Viktor Kanevskyi the side would also go onto win the Soviet Cup in 1964 in Kanevskyi’s last season. Under the management of Lobanovskyi over three spells Dynamo achieved unprecedented success, 8 Soviet Leagues, 5 Ukrainian Leagues, 2 Cup Winners Cups and numerous domestic cups were won. The Club also, against all the odds got to the Semi-Finals of the 1999 Champions League with the strike partnership of Andriy Shevchenko and Serhiy Rebrov. Beating Real Madrid in the Quarter Final 3-1 on aggregate, they were finally knocked out by Bayern München 4-3.

I’ve long been a fan of Eastern European football, I’ve an unhealthy obsession with Soviet era art, propaganda and history on the whole. I managed to persuade my Dad to come with me to Ukraine with tales of cheap beer, historical sights and football. We flew with British Airways from Heathrow to Kyiv, the flights cost around £100 return, but you can fly from other London airports with budget airlines for cheaper. An early morning flight, we drove up the night before and stayed in a hotel near the airport. The flight, just over three hours long was pretty empty meaning I could grab three seats and have a nap. Once we’d landed we were quickly through customs and out to a bus to take us to the Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi Train Station. The drive took around an hour and took us from the desolate expanses outside the capital into the Soviet era high-rises of the city centre. Our hotel overlooking the train station was a couple of minutes away from the Lokomotiv Sportsground and we were fortunate enough to stumble across a youth game. We walked around the frozen terraces, it was around -10 during the day time and watched an entertaining end to end game where I lost count of the score.

After a walk to CSKA Kyiv’s old stadium, we made our way back to the hotel to warm up and get ready for the Europa League fixture that night. After drawing the first leg with Olympiacos in this round of 32 fixture 2-2 the tie was finally poised. We got showered, ate and headed on the metro to Olimpiiska metro station. The metro in Kyiv costs roughly 25p per ride, and is fantastic. Every station has it’s only beautiful Soviet era furnishing and Arsenal station is actually the deepest in the world. Olimpiiska is no different, ornate sport themed art cover every wall as well as for some reason mad chandlers. We made our way out of the station and tried to find a bar, after a bit of a faff we finally did. Pints in Ukraine cost anywhere between 50p and £1.20 depending on where you’re drinking. With around half an hour left until kickoff we made our way to the ground. I had pre-booked tickets, the most expensive ones I could that cost £14. The cheapest cost £1.40 and I wanted to get one as a souvenir (I really don’t like print at home). You weren’t allowed to buy tickets from the ticketbooth without a Ukranian address, worth bearing in mind if you’re thinking about making the trip. Once at the stadium we made our way to the club shop that doubled up as a trophy room and museum. There was nothing there for us though and we tried to find our gate to get in, after much confusion I showed our ticket to a steward. Aghast he left his post and took us to an entrance bellow the stand complete with red carpet and doormen. We flashed our tickets, were given wristbands and walked into a bar. I had unwittingly bought corporate tickets for £14 at a stadium that 9 months previously had held the Champions League Final.

As the teams came out Dynamos Ultras on the opposite side of the pitch to us on the left hand side let off a huge amount of pyro. As with most Ultra groups the noise from that part of the ground was relentless. The draw and away goals in Athens had put the Ukrainians in fine position coming into the match. The conditions with temperatures around -18°C at kickoff would play into the hosts hands as well. The game was played at a good tempo with both teams giving it a go, the contest would be settled on the 32nd minute when a right wing cross was met by Dynamo’s Spanish forward Fran Sol. Sol guided his finish in at the near post and wheeled away in celebration. For us the countdown to warm up at half time was on.

Olympiacos gave it a real go in the first twenty minutes of the second half but nothing was doing. The last 25 minutes became a bit of a procession, Dynamo kept the ball and kept it far from danger. The final whistle was greeted by an emphatic roar and more pyro from the Ultras. We made the executive decision to warm up in the bar and stayed for another couple of beers allowing the masses to make their way home. While finally making our way out we bumped into a couple of Dynamo players making their way to their cars. An odd night that was wonderfully cheap and disgustingly cold was ended with the Metro back to the hotel and some beers in the bar.

The rest of our trip was taken up by a mixture of basketball, sightseeing and more football (that I may blog about in the future). Kyiv is a fantastic city, I’d imagine a completely different city in the summer. It was desolate, cheap but friendly and in places beautiful. The Metro is the easiest way to get about, and the cheapest. You’ll get some odd looks being English on there but everyone we met was friendly and helpful. The city clearly deeply scarred still by the Battle of Kyiv and fall out of the Second World War is incredibly interesting. With cheap flights heading there coming more into the public eye, I think the city will become more and more touristy in the next decade. It might pay to head there sooner rather than later if it is on your radar. Did I mention how cheap the beer is?

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