Not everyone can agree on just when exactly Dynamo Kyiv were formed, but what surely can’t be disputed is their status as one of eastern Europe’s big boys. The Bilo-syni [White and Blues] were champions of the Soviet Union a record 13 times – that’s once more than Muscovite rivals Spartak – and dominated in a post-independent Ukraine until Rinat Akhmetov opened his chequebook at Shakhtar Donetsk to fund his new hobby of collecting Brazilian wonderkids.
Officially, the club were founded on 13 May 1927, born out of the Ministry of Interior’s eponymously named sports society, and gradually Dynamo ousted Kharkiv as Ukraine’s pre-eminent side of the 1930s.
The Second World War curtailed the Soviet football calendar in 1941 after just four games; Kyiv fell to the Nazis the same year and the Dynamo team was fragmented. However, their players constituted the rump of FC Start, a side formed in a local bakery whose victories against opponents brought to the city by the occupying Germans became an allegory of resistance for Ukrainians. Worried that the performances of Start would raise the local population’s morale, the Nazis dispatched to Kyiv the unbeaten Luftwaffe club Flakelf to put them in their place. The result was a comprehensive 5-1 victory for Start and a replay was ordered that would become known as “the Death Match”.
In an intimidating Zenit Stadium, Flakelf adopted a physical approach to the game and meted out strong challenges as they did in the original fixture. But as in the first match, the outcome was a Start win, 5-3. In time, members of the squad were arrested. Mykola Korotkykh died under torture; Ivan Kuzmenko, Oleksey Klimenko and Mykola Trusevich were executed at Babyn Yar, a ravine on the outskirts of Kyiv where thousands were killed during the Nazi occupation of Ukraine. Those who did survive would never be able to play football again.
Post-war, it wasn't until 1961, under Vyacheslav Solovyev that Dynamo landed their first league title, and more success would come later in the decade with the arrival of Viktor Maslov, indubitably one of the most pioneering managers of the modern era. The Muscovites won the Soviet championship three more times and arguably laid the foundations for another of eastern Europe’s great coaches, Valeriy Lobanovskiy.
Born in Kyiv and a former Dynamo player, his three spells at the club from 1973 until his death in 2002 established them as a genuine force in Europe. Lobanovskiy was a shrewd tactician and a strict disciplinarian, who created highly organised, successful teams during each of his reigns. The first yielded five league titles and three USSR Cups, and their 3-0 victory against Ferencvárosi in the final of the 1975 Cup Winners’ Cup final was the first major European honour won by a team from the Soviet Union. Dynamo also beat Bayern Munich 3-0 on aggregate in the Super Cup the same year.
Lobanovskiy left in 1982, but returned to the Bilo-syni hotseat two years later, picking up where he left off with three more Soviet championships, three cups and victory in the 1986 Cup Winners’ Cup final against Atlético Madrid. In 1990 Lobanovskiy departed to work in the Middle East.
Six years later, and having rescued the club from the brink of bankruptcy, Hryhory and Ihor Surkis brought Lobanovskiy back, where he would remain until his death in 2002. Lobanovskiy won five straight Ukrainian Premier League titles and three cups, and memorably took Dynamo to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 1999, where they fell to Bayern Munich 4-3 on aggregate.
Each of Lobanovskiy’s sides produced a Ballon d’Or winner. Oleh Blokhin (1975), Ihor Belanov (1986) and Andriy Shevchenko (2004, then at AC Milan) were all recipients of the prestige award. Most of that famous Champions League squad departed to greener pastures and after Lobanovskiy’s passing Dynamo faltered; out east, Shakhtar Donetsk were in the ascendancy.
Rinat Akhmetov has given Mircea Lucescu time and money to build one of eastern Europe’s best sides with a clear ethos, while Dynamo have gone through a clutch of managers since the Romanian’s appointment in 2004. Few could argue they're now the number one team in Ukraine.
To wrestle that title back they’ve looked to the past once again, reappointing the Russian Yuri Semin in late 2010, the last manager to win Dynamo a league title for the club in the 2008/09 season.
The 16,873-capacity Valeriy Lobanovskiy Dynamo Stadium is located in a leafy park along the banks of the Dnipro River, not far from maydan Nezlezhnosti (Independence Square) in the city centre. Built on land that began the 20th century as an allotment for the nearby Mariyinsky Palace, football was first played at Dynamo’s home in 1934, but suffered damage in the Second World War and several unexploded bombs were discovered during its renovations in the early nineties. Greeting fans at the entrance is a statue of the late Valeriy Lobanovskiy, his wristwatch set to the exact time of his death – 20.37.
Also in the grounds of the stadium is a monument to the players of FC Start, where Dynamo’s players traditionally lay flowers on their wedding day.
Club address vul Hrushevsky 3, Kyiv 01001
Telephone +380 44 597 00 08
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Guide by Mark Gilbey, who writes FourFourTwo's Never Mind The Bolsheviks
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