Unravelling the enigma of football in the post-Soviet republics
As a teenager banished to Kyiv by its parents, Never Mind the Bolsheviks often found itself in Shevchenko Park of a weekend, chasing women or getting into some other jolly jape.
The leafy public garden on the banks of the mighty Dnipro River doesn’t honour Andriy, it’s named in memory of another Shevchenko who endures godlike status in Ukraine – Taras, 19th-century nationalist poet whose statue broods over the capital.
However Andriy Shevchenko will surely be bestowed an equally grand memorial upon his retirement.
And NMTB can think of no better plan than hauling down the smug figure of Lenin who presides over the aptly-named Bulvar Shevchenko and replacing it with one of the country’s most venerated footballers.
So, yes, the great man is back for a second spell at Dynamo Kyiv, the club where he earned a reputation as one of the continent’s most prolific strikers – and he’s already back among the goals.
When the Bilo-Syni were awarded a penalty against Metalurg Donetsk a couple of weekends ago, there was only ever going to be one contender to take it, and he subsequently slotted it home to help Dynamo to a 3-1 win.
NMTB had an inkling for some time (honest) that when he began to lose his way at Chelsea it wouldn’t be too long before the blog would soon seen Sheva once again slipping on the No.7 jersey for his favourite club.
Despite having a supermodel wife (who obviously picked up enough handbags in Milan and on the King’s Road), he’s too honest and proud a fellow to check in and receive one final pay packet in the footballer’s retirement home that is the MLS.
Or, follow the money to somewhere like Bunyodkor in Uzbekistan, whom the blog introduced you to last week, and there’s no better platform to silence your critics than in the Champions League.
Certainly he has nowt to prove in Ukraine, where some fans still wear Dynamo Kyiv shirts adorned with his name – and not just the parsimonious supporters who haven’t bought a new replica kit for a decade.
He was indubitably the first celebrity in a post-Soviet Ukraine, in what was then a grim country failing miserably to adjust politically, economically and socially after years of Russian domination.
To see Shevchenko performing so adroitly among Europe’s elite brought an overwhelming sense of pride to Ukrainians and provided a fillip not only to Dynamo’s fans, but to an entire population. And that’s a lot of people (about 50-odd million back then).
But today he rejoins the Persha-Liga champions during a period of transition.
Yuri Semin – who masterminded that title triumph so adeptly with a free-flowing brand of attacking football that yielded a “goals for” tally of Barcelona proportions – has left to join the Russian club he served as player and manager, Lokomotiv Moscow.
Following him out of the exit door is Ismael Bangoura, who has made a big-money move across the Iron Curtain to continue his career at French club Stade Rennais. NMTB has no idea why, because he's certainly capable of doing a job for most teams in the Premier League.
Bangoura had an extremely productive season in front of goal and his pace and guile would have provided the perfect foil to a big and burly forward like Sheva.
But new gaffer Valeri Gazzayez, who doesn’t go by the sobriquet of “Gazza,” will now look to the club’s captain Artem Milevskiy to take up the mantle of the departing striker.
Also leaving were the veteran pair of Maris Verpakovskis and Maksim Shatskikh, who over the last couple of years have appeared about as much for Dynamo as Shevchenko has for Chelsea and AC Milan.
They depart with a firm handshake, a painting of a spitfire (probably) and the thanks of Dynamo’s chairman Igor Surkhis, who has gladly swapped them for Shevchenko.
So it’s out with the old and in with the new, and NMTB is predicting big things for another Artem – Artem Kravets, who fluttered around the fringes of the first team last season, always looking lively and giving a good account of himself.
He’s a competent young forward who could well establish himself in the Ukrainian national squad if he stays fit.
At such a young age, he’s been unlucky enough to have suffered more international-weekend injuries than Ryan Giggs, or you’d probably be aware of him already.
But with the arrival of Sheva, he’s certain to receive some excellent tutorage, and he’ll also benefit from another old boy from those halcyon days of the '90s, when Dynamo Kyiv reached the Champions League semi-finals.
Shevchenko’s former striker partner Sergei Rebrov always appeared to play second fiddle to his close chum, in spite of accruing more goals during their Dynamo careers.
That always seemed a bit unfair to NMTB, who rather liked the chap and thought it was a tragedy that he flopped in the Premier League.
But now he is Sheva’s senior and is the new assistant manager at Dynamo as he begins his path into management.
And the blog reckons that even after this two-year deal for Shevchenko, it won’t be the end of his association with the club and he’ll probably cut a similar apprenticeship at Dynamo before eventually becoming the manager, although it’s always a risky business appointing a club legend as gaffer.
That is if he decides to continue in football upon his retirement.
He could (although it’s extremely unlikely) be one of those miserable ex-footballers who opens a sports bar and sits perched on the edge of the bar chirping up about his career to anyone who’ll listen.
But he’s not finished just yet, so keep an eye out for Andriy Shevchenko in the Champions League this season: he might just prove a few critics wrong.
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I liken Shevchenko leaving AC Milan to when Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles, Sheva's wife like Lennon's wife meddled with something so sweet and beautiful, that the repercussions won't be felt for years, but Mrs. Sheva ruined one of the most dynamic partnerships of all time; I'm talking of course of the Milan Fab Four: Shevchenko, Seedorf, Kaká & Andrea Pirlo, even when Sheva returned to Milan the magic was gone as Kaká was already almost out the door... I've always been a fan of Sheva, in fact when my beloved Uruguay (see http://www.lacelesteblog.com/) failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, I adopted the Ukraine as my team all because of Shevchenko --- here's hoping Sheva returns to form and leads Dynamo back to the Champions League.
Excellent blog, a real shame for me that Ukraine couldnt pinch a win last night. It probably would of made them favourites for a play off place.
As for Shevchenko, he is obviously a fantastic striker but he came into a Chelsea side with back to back titles and things could only get worse really. The signing of him and Michael Ballack also made Chelsea change their formation which clubs should never do for any player.
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