Kyiv is home to the dominant force in Ukrainian football, FC Dynamo Kyiv, a club founded in 1927 with the distinction of never suffering top-flight relegation – at first in the USSR and now Ukraine.
Dynamo are not the only top-flight team in the capital – FC Arsenal Kyiv, formerly the army side CSKA, and brewery-backed FC Obolon Kyiv are also resident – yet the Bilo-Syni (White-Blues) are the star attraction. The most successful side in the USSR with 13 Soviet Top League titles and nine cup wins, their dominance has continued since independence, claiming 13 of the 21 titles and nine cups.
Dynamo initially drew their players from a combination of leading footballers and amateurs from their sponsors, the Soviet secret police. They quickly grew in strength and support, and by the late 1960s they reigned supreme. Victor Maslov set them on their way before former winger Valeriy Lobanovskiy heralded an era of unrivaled success, allying domestic dominance with European glory.
Dynamo won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1975 and 1986, also reaching the European Champion Clubs' Cup semi-finals in 1977, 1987 and then 1999, by which time they had already firmly established their hegemony in independent Ukraine. It was no always so, however, and in the early years Kyiv was put in the shade by teams from Kharkiv, Odesa and Lviv.
Football was introduced to Kyiv in 1900 by foreign – mainly Czech – factory workers. The first team represented Greter and Krivanek, a machine and boiler building plant in the west of the city, and the first pitch was built nearby on what is now Dovzhenko Film Studios. It quickly caught on but Kyivan football really took off in 1934 when the capital of Soviet Ukraine was transferred there from Kharkiv.
The list of the game's Kyivans is a veritable who's who of Ukrainian football, including two Ballon d'Or winners: Oleh Blokhin (1975) and Andriy Shevchenko (2004). Oleksiy Mykhailychenko, the prolific Viktor Kanevskiy and Anatoliy Byshovets deserve mentions but pride of place goes to Lobanovskiy, who guided Dynamo to eight Soviet titles, five Ukrainian championships, and the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1975 and 1986. When he died in 2002, thousands lined the streets of Kyiv as the hearse made its way to the Baykove cemetery.
Sporting excellence and Kyiv go hand in hand. Women's handball side Spartak Kyiv won 20 consecutive USSR championships between 1969 and 1988 and Kyivans have also had a big impact on the international stage. 'Man of Iron' Borys Shakhlin earned seven Olympic gold medals, fellow gymnast Larysa Latynina won nine. Neither were born in Kyiv but both moved there early like Valeriy Borzov, winner of the 100m and 200m sprint double in 1972. Kyiv is also the hometown of two-time Stanley Cup ice hockey victor Ruslan Fedotenko.
Did you know?
Dynamo became the first team from the Soviet Union to capture a major European title when they lifted the 1975 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.
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