By Igor Linnyk
Football is a sport where miracles can happen. The story of Andriy Voronin is living proof of that, and the tale of how a little-known player suddenly became one of the most sought-after talents in Germany should warm the hearts of even the most sceptical observers.
Rise to prominence
Voronin plays for 1. FSV Mainz 05 in the 2. Bundesliga, where he is now so well-respected that his picture adorns the front page of the team's official website. The club currently lie in second place in the table and are realistic challengers for promotion, with Voronin scoring 16 goals in 21 games so far this season. It is little wonder he has attracted the attention of a number of top clubs, both in Germany and around Europe.
In November 2002, Voronin made his debut for the Ukraine and, having scored his side's decisive second goal in the 2-0 victory against Greece, started the next game against Northern Ireland and has quickly become an important team member in Ukraine's UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifying campaign. It caps a remarkable rise to prominence for the 23-year-old, who has had to endure a number of setbacks already in his fledgling career.
Football in the blood
Voronin took his first footballing steps at Lazurnoye More, a private academy in Odessa, before moving to Germany at the age of 15. He remembers how it was always his dream to be a professional. "
My father would always be dreaming about me becoming a famous football player who [would] make our name famous," he said. "When I was six, he took me to the academy, and soon afterwards I saw the 1986 [FIFA] World Cup in Mexico, with the incredible Diego Maradona. He has remained my football hero ever since."
VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach scouts spotted the determined and dynamic youngster when he was playing for Ukraine's Under-16 side and quickly signed him. In a dream start, Voronin made his debut in 1997 alongside such illustrious names as Stefan Effenberg, Martin Dahlin and Toni Polster against FC Bayern München at the Olympiastadion.
'My chance never came'
However, from such a promising beginning things quickly went awry at Mönchengladbach, as Voronin recalls. "The team was falling apart, the coaches were changing very quickly, and each of them was keen to use experienced players to keep the club alive," he said. "I was asking for a chance, but it never came."
'I would have gone anywhere'
It was at this point that Voronin, nicknamed Vorona or the Raven, showed his independent streak. "In despair, I was ready to leave and go wherever I could, even to Mainz, who were bottom of 2. Bundesliga then," he said. "I thought it would be great for me to go there, because I could possibly make the starting eleven."
Voronin joined Mainz for €45,000 in 2000, and began to flourish after Jürgen Klopp became coach the following summer. He has played as a winger, a playmaker and an out-and-out striker, and has enjoyed success in all three roles. Today, his estimated value is 100 times that initial transfer fee.
Voronin becomes a free agent this summer when his contract expires and, although he has said he does not necessarily want to leave, he insists he will not play in the second division again next season. A number of clubs are monitoring the situation in the hope of signing a player who looks set to follow in the footsteps of fellow countryman Andriy Shevchenko and illuminate Europe with his talent.
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