Ukrainian side Kahovka-Kzeso will bring a professional attitude to the UEFA Regions' Cup.
By Igor Linnyk
The second side to qualify for the finals of the UEFA Regions' Cup, after hosts Malopolska, Kahovka-Kzeso overcame teams from Belarus, Georgia and Moldova on home soil to earn their trip to Poland, and go into the finals with an impressive pedigree.
Effectively the works team of the Kzeso welding equipment factory in Nova Kahovka, factory director Jaroslav Mikitin and club president Alexei Prihodko have helped mould the team from the south of Ukraine into a fine unit, winning two national amateur titles and amateur cups.
THE MAN IN COMMAND
Viktor Kovalenko is the man behind Kahovka-Kzeso's successes in Europe and Ukraine. A former player for local side FC Meliorator, who played in the Soviet second tier in the 1980s, he led Kahovka-Kzeso to an amateur league and cup double in 2004 and having celebrated his 57th birthday on 22 June, will be hoping for a European success in Malopolska.
uefa.com: What are you hoping to achieve at the Regions' Cup finals?
Viktor Kovalenko: Our task is to represent Ukraine in this tournament with honour and to get as far as we can. We started our preparations for this summer's tournament in December - so our intentions are very serious. Fortunately, Kahovka is situated in the south of our country and we had all the conditions for normal training. We will see how it turns out.
uefa.com: There is plenty of experience among your squad. Will that help you in the finals?
Kovalenko: We cannot do without experienced players at this stage of our development. All of them are people totally devoted to football, who help our lads to progress and make their mark in the game, sometimes fighting their way on to the professional scene. One of our old players, Sergei Shevtsov, for example, played in the Ukrainian top division for a while.
uefa.com: Kahovka-Kzeso have come a long way in a short time. What factors have helped you?
Kovalenko: Kahovka is a football city. We had now-defunct Meliorator in the USSR championship second division in the 1980s but playing in regional tournaments has not been enough for our supporters who miss top-class football very much. After Kzeso's three successive wins in the Kherson regional league and the same number of local cups we needed to take our club to a new level. Two amateur championships in 2002 and 2004, runners-up position in 2003 and the amateur cup were a fair reward for our supporters' patience and belief.
uefa.com: Did the double last year mark the best achievement in your history?
Kovalenko: We performed really well last season. We played many bright matches and managed to get top-class results. However, I cannot say that we had a totally positive year. For example, our tight schedule forced us to cancel our participation in our local regional tournaments otherwise we would have had to play three matches a week.
uefa.com: Having played at a high level with Meliorator, do you feel that Kahovka-Kzeso have outgrown amateur football?
Kovalenko: It is important to be realistic. It is difficult for Kahovka to support a professional team. When we tried in the past, we only narrowly avoided the collapse of local football. We have to continue to play at this amateur level. Not only because we don't want to be outclassed at another level, but also because of the high standards of amateur football. Our amateurs have had another boost recently - participating in the Regions' Cup is a very interesting honour and will mean valuable experience.