This is an excerpt from an Atlantic Council commissioned piece
Next week, Ukrainian village team Kolos Kovalivka will write a new chapter in what is surely one of the most romantic stories in recent football history. On September 17, the Ukrainian club will face Greek side Aris in Salonika in a Europa League second qualifying round tie that would have seemed beyond the realms of possibility just a few seasons ago.
The coming game in Greece will be Kolos’s debut in UEFA club competition. Remarkably, it comes just eight years after the club’s foundation. Established in 2012, Kolos is a village team hailing from the agricultural heartlands of rural Ukraine. The meteoric rise of Kolos represents a rare glimmer of light in what has been an otherwise dark period for Ukrainian football. It is an unlikely tale offering hope to other small clubs across the continent that dream of breaking into the big time.
Nobody expected Kolos to spend August 2020 preparing for a European campaign. The team had only arrived in the Ukrainian Premier League one season earlier, but a sixth-place finish saw them enter the league’s European competition playoff, where they defeated FC Mariupol 1-0 to book their ticket to the Europa League…
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