UPL MATCH PREDICTOR 2018/19 MATCHDAY 3

UPL PREDICTOR MATCHDAY 3

Another week of UPL football has passed and we are yet to be graced with a draw! Dynamo Kyiv left it late to win against FC Lviv, with 19 year old substitute Nazariy Rusyn grabbing his first UPL goal. Meanwhile, Oleksandriya claimed their second consecutive win of the season against a deflated Zorya Luhansk side. Shakhtar returned to the top spot on goal difference after another comfortable victory over lowly Arsenal Kyiv, whilst FC Mariupol moved closer to that coveted Europa League group stage spot by beating Djurgarden 2-1 AET in Odesa. Also, UEFA released their Euro U19 team of the tournament, which included two Ukrainians; Supryaha and Buletsa. We profiled both of them and a few other youngsters in this week’s featured article about the Ukrainian stars of tomorrow. A link to this can be found on the homepage. It’s a big weekend of UPL football ahead, with the Ukrainian El Clasico kicking us off on Friday, which will certainly not be a tame affair. With many teams still looking to get their first wins or points on the board, Matchday 3 could very well pull up some surprises and surely provide us with our first dead heat of the season!


Andrew Todos of Zorya Londonsk Weekly will be making predictions for every UPL game this season, against a variety of guests. 

Donetsk Way (L-R):
Andriy & Stepan Luczka, Petro & Ewhen Chymera

Our third guest of the 2018 – 19 season is Petro Chymera, one of the four founding members of the well known British based Ukrainian football group and online presence, Donetsk Way. Born out of a road trip between four friends; Petro, Ewhen, Stepan and Andriy, the group is named after the road in Sheffield where their 2012 trip began. Since travelling from England to Ukraine for Euro 2012, Donetsk Way has established itself as a respected source on all things Ukrainian football on social media. In addition to this, the group are renowned for being a popular presence at Ukrainian club and national team away games across Europe and are also known to dress up as kozaks on occasion. Petro, primarily runs most of the Donetsk Way social media channels on a day to day basis and has followed all forms of Ukrainian football closely for years as a result. With such an in-depth knowledge of the UPL, Petro will be feeling the pressure in this week’s UPL MATCH PREDICTOR. 

Metalist Kharkiv Ultras v Dnipro – 27/9/2015 

As Petro has followed the UPL for years and persisted through both the highs and lows, we decided to ask him about his views on current state of Ukrainian football and in what direction he sees the UPL moving toward, in the near future. Petro answered “The UPL isn’t anywhere near the standard it once was in the early part of the decade, when Dnipro and Metalist were challenging the duopoly of the UPL and performing well in Europe. The current race behind the top two isn’t as convincing, so it is very much back to a two horse race. Shakhtar and Dynamo are regularly playing in Europe in the spring so this is a positive but the next level teams still need to do more.” 

Petro personally thinks that talk of a potential 16 team league, coming into play from next season, would be beneficial as it would avoid teams playing the same side four times a year. “SIX Clasicos a year, with the Super Cup and an inevitable Ukrainian Cup game is too much!” That said Petro admits “it is no good raising the league up to 16 teams if it is going to mean teams are pulling out mid-season like they did previously. Attendances last season were generally poor too, so getting the fans back in stadiums needs to be a priority.”

With the first UPL El Clasico of the season occurring on Friday, Petro was also asked whether he believed the result of this early derby would have any impact on who wins the championship in May? Petro responded astutely; “With another potential three Clasico’s left, I don’t think this will be the decider! Last season Shakhtar didn’t win a single Clasico but still won the league and Dynamo did the same a few years back under Rebrov, so getting the job done elsewhere is just as, if not more important.” Despite being a Dynamo fan, Petro remains realistic when it comes to assessing both of the teams’ current standings. “Dynamo and Shakhtar have won their opening games, albeit the Donbas side have done so in more convincing style. Shakhtar are currently more experienced with Dynamo having lots of new faces and young players, so the Miners probably edge it at the minute, despite Dynamo’s Super Cup win and my prediction of a Dynamo win this weekend!!”


Andriy Lunin

Finally, before we move onto the predictions, keeping with Zorya Londonsk’s topic of conversation this week; young Ukrainian talent, we asked Petro for his opinion on who he thought looks most promising for the future. “Andriy Lunin has obviously grabbed the headlines with his move to Real Madrid. He’ll probably be 2nd choice but it’ll be interesting to see if he gets any game time or even a loan move. It’s about time someone replaced Andriy Pyatov as Ukraina No.1!” 

Moving onto the UPL, Petro feels it’s time for the likes of Tsyhankov and Besedin to show their true worth at Dynamo, “they may be promising but can they deliver?” He adds that the same goes for Viktor Kovalenko at Shakhtar, “he looked a world beater a few years back, but his progression has seemingly stalled.” Petro also thinks it will be interesting to see if any of the Ukraine squad who reached the semi finals of the U19 Euros get any game time this season.


DONETSK WAY’S SOCIAL LINKS:


Go and give Petro Chymera and Donetsk Way a follow or like by clicking the links to their various social media pages found below and also check out the the Donetsk Way website for loads more Ukrainian football related content: 

Donetsk Way Website 

Donetsk Way on IG

Petro Chymera on Twitter

Donetsk Way on Twitter

Petro Chymera on  Facebook 

Donetsk Way on Facebook

PREDICTION ZONE


A correct result (WIN / DRAW/ DEFEAT) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns an extra 40 points.


FRIDAY

Dynamo Kyiv v Shakhtar Donetsk


Todos’ prediction: With both teams back up to full match fitness now the season is in full swing, I see this ending in a draw after a tight but feisty affair. It seems written in the stars for Moraes to score and cue a twenty two man brawl after the resultant celebration.1-1


Petro’s prediction: Possibly heart ruling head here, but Dynamo have edged the recent league meetings and won the Super Cup. It might be a backs against the wall job, but Khatskevich could get another one over Fonseca.’ 2-1

RESULT: 1-0 – Verbic (65′)


SATURDAY


Vorskla Poltava v FC Lviv

Todos’ prediction: Vorskla have disappointed me so far this season whilst FC Lviv were unfortunate last weekend. I see Lviv getting something out of the game. 1-1

Petro’s prediction: Lviv were very unlucky against Dynamo and that last gasp defeat could burst their bubble. Vorskla are too good to keep losing so this is the tie to turn it around.’ 2-0 

RESULT: 1-0 – Careca (83′)



Zorya Luhansk v Chornomorets Odesa

Todos’ prediction: After last week’s shock loss to Oleksandriya, Zorya will hope to bounce back against Chornomorets. With one eye on their Europa League game in midweek, they should do just enough to secure themselves a second win of the season. 2-0 

Petro’s prediction:  Zorya have too much about them for Chornomorets’ 2-0 

RESULT: 1-1 – Rafael Ratao (23′) / Savchenko (59′)


SUNDAY


Karpaty Lviv v Olimpik Donetsk

Todos’ prediction: Like London buses, after two matchdays of no draws in the UPL, not two, but three stalemates will come all at once. Karpaty and Olimpik have strong attacking line ups but are also very susceptible at the back. Both teams will bottle the win. 2-2


Petro’s prediction:  It’s a win a piece so far, but home advantage sways it in Karpaty’s favour for me.’ 2-1

RESULT: 2-2 – Di Franco (32′), Shved (36′) / Kravchenko (58′), Teixera (86′)



Arsenal Kyiv v Mariupol
Todos’ prediction: I said at the start of the season that I wasn’t convinced by Ravenelli’s coaching record and so far I’ve been proven right. Mariupol may very well be exhausted after their AET Europa League win in midweek. They may also have one eye on Bordeaux next Thursday, but I feel they will have just enough energy left to beat this poor Arsenal side. 0-1
Petro’s prediction: Mariupol are the better side but I think their exploits in Europa could distract them.’ 1-0

RESULT: 1-2 – Lola (22′) / Fomin (P) (36′), Boryachuk (44′)




Desna Chernihiv v Oleksandriya

Todos’ prediction: Oleksandriya come into this game with a 100% record but I feel they will come unstuck against a very formidable Desna side, who are still on a high after last week’s battering of Mariupol. 2-1

Petro’s prediction: Desna will be buzzing after their last win, but Olexandriya have started well, I’ve got this one as the first draw of the UPL season.’ 1-1

RESULT: 0-2 – Banada (6′), Bondarenko (53′)

MATCHDAY 3 – H2H WINNER: TODOS


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GUEST LEADERBOARD 

Total scores after week 3

Todos
140
Guests
110
Todos v Guests
P3
W2
D0

L1



THE NEXT GEN 7: YOUNG UP-AND-COMING UKRAINIAN TALENT TO WATCH OUT FOR THIS SEASON

THE NEXT GEN 7:

Ukraine, currently has an abundance of youth players who are vying to make themselves known on the national and international stage. Some have already shown glimpses of their capabilities at senior level, while others are hoping to break into their first teams in the near future. This piece will focus on seven of the most promising young stars that Ukraine has to offer and will aim to shed some light on players that are relatively unknown to the rest of Europe. (All stats sourced from transfermarkt.com & wyscout.com)

YOUNG UP-AND-COMING UKRAINIAN TALENT


MYKOLA SHAPARENKO

Having exploded onto the scene last season with some impressive cameo performances in the Europa League, and introduced himself to the UPL with a wonder goal against his former club Mariupol, things are truly on the way up for Dynamo’s new number 10! Khatskevich has been bold enough to give the 19 year old the shirt number worn by many a Dynamo legend, showing how much faith the coaching team has in the young man’s talent. Mykola is a player who regularly takes the CAM position but can also play deeper as a CM and slightly more advanced as a CF as seen during the 2018/19 pre season. 

His main attributes are his passing and dribbling. He links the play really well, threading passes into forwards and creating openings for the wide players. Whilst he has yet to score many goals for Dynamo, he is capable of finishing in spectacular fashion. He scored in his only game for Ukraine U21’s back in March and that was with his head, so he seizes any opportunity he can to have a positive impact on the game. In terms of his playing style, it could be compared to that of David Silva, providing precise passes for team mates and being able to drive at players at speed. Shevchenko has already featured him in two matches for the Senior NT and as long as Shaparenko remains consistent he should develop into a key player for both the national and club sides in the future.

NAZARIY RUSYN


Nazariy Rusyn has made quite the name for himself at Dynamo, despite having only made 4 substitute appearances for the senior side. He has only played a total of 51 minutes for the first team, over a 3 season period but has scored 3 goals, with his only 3 shots on goal. He certainly has taken his chance to impress every time he has been given the opportunity. Having scored his first UPL goal against his boyhood club, FC Lviv, less than a couple of minutes after coming onto the pitch, it seems Nazariy will be getting more of a chance to express himself as the current season progresses. His performances for the Dynamo U21 side last season were impressive, boasting a 0.76 goals per game ratio, showing that he’s very consistent in front of goal. 

He boasts a strong build, which adds strength to his game. Allowing him to shrug off defenders and hold the ball up well in addition to his own finishing ability. FC Lviv’s owner was interviewed by FootballHub after Rusyn’s winner against his old side. The owner, who knows Rusyn very well, compared the young striker to Andriy Shevchenko. This is high praise. Rusyn commenting on his career goals, in a live call in interview to ProFootball on 2+2, said he wanted to break the UPL goalscoring record and then move onto Real Madrid. This season looks certain to be his breakthrough, being one of only two strikers in Khatskevich’s UPL squad alongside Biesedin. As the latter is in hardly prolific goalscoring form at the moment, it may well be the perfect opportunity to test Rusyn’s potential by giving him a starting place in the near future.

ROMAN YAREMCHUK

Yaremchuk may well be turning 23 in November but he is still a young talent to watch out for this season. He has already established himself in Belgium with his breakthrough coming last year. He scored 9 goals for Gent in total and had already shown glimpses of his attacking ability whilst on loan at Oleksandriya in the UPL previously. He has so far started this season well; he was prolific in pre season and scored in the opening day defeat to Standard Liege. 

He could be a very important player for Gent this season as long as he doesn’t succumb to any serious injuries, which seemed to affect him last time out. As a result he has yet to make his National Team debut but it looks quite certain that he will get another opportunity to fulfil this, come the Nations League in the autumn. Roman certainly looks a natural finisher, being able to nick a header, hold off defenders and possesses a bit of pace which allows him to drift out wide on occasion and provide assists. He currently looks like the most suitable solution to the National Team striker problem that has plagued the senior side since Sheva retired. 

VIKTOR TSYHANKOV

Probably the most well known young Ukrainian football talent across Europe at the moment is Viktor Tsyhankov. Having been named in UEFA’s Top 50 young stars to watch this season, he will be under pressure to emulate last season’s form. He made a massive contribution last year for Dynamo in the Europa League, the UPL and in the Cup. His performances seem to suggest he is a more than suitable replacement for Andriy Yarmolenko, who left the club last summer. 

Viktor can play on either wing, with stats showing he is performs better on the left. However, with Benjamin Verbic, more than likely claiming that wing this season, Tsyhankov will be playing on the right more frequently. He scores goals, gets assists, and is a very good dribbler. He is a good all round technical footballer but he is still young. As a result Viktor should not be criticised too harshly for inconsistency at this early stage of his career. He has yet to perform at his full potential so far this season but hopefully he can push on with the Champions League qualifiers coming up and unleash some of last season’s prolific form again. If Dynamo are to challenge for a domestic double and a European trophy this season, Tsyhankov will need to be at the top of his game, as he is such an influential player in this current squad squad.


ANDRIY LUNIN


It has been quite the summer for the former Dnipro and Zorya Luhansk goalkeeper. Having had a solid season with Zorya, playing in the Europa League group stages and helping his side to a fourth place finish in the UPL, rumours began to surface about top European clubs taking an interest in him. He has since secured a dream move to Real Madrid and made his unofficial debut in a friendly match against Manchester United. His strongest attributes are that he is a great shot stopper which is complimented by quick and sharp reflexes.  He is also an accurate distributor of the ball, being consistent when passing or throwing it to his defenders or to players further up the pitch.

It seems he will be the third choice keeper at Real for the time being, but the experience of training alongside Navas and the potential likes of Courtois will be invaluable to his development. Let’s hope he gets a few cup appearances or even goes on loan to another La Liga side to get match practice. He currently looks to be the most appropriate future replacement to Andriy Pyatov as Ukraine’s national team Number 1.

VLADYSLAV SUPRYAHA


Vladislav Supryaha is the youngest player on our Next Gen 7 list. At only 18, he is plying his trade in the Persha Liha (Second tier of Ukrainian football) for SK Dnipro – 1, having previously been a youth team member at former UPL side FC Dnipro. He had a successful season last year, scoring 7 goals in 28 appearances and will look to build on that this time round. He produced very good performances at the European U19 championships in Finland, scoring a superb individual goal against reigning champions England.

If he remains consistent this season, his efforts should reward him with a place in the U20 World Cup squad, where he will be able to show off his talent on an international stage. He has so far demonstrated that he has an abundance of pace, great ball control and holds natural finishing ability. On the back of his performances in the Euros, it looks inevitable that he will be snapped up by a bigger club if SK Dnipro -1 fails to gain promotion to the UPL at the end of this season.

 

SERHIY BULETSA


Serhiy Buletsa is another promising CM who can also play in a more advance attacking position, as he did in the European U19 Championships. Throughout the group stages he looked like Ukraine’s best player, scoring goals, feeding passes, dribbling at speed and delivering balls into the box. His dribbling style is reminiscent of Messi; keeping the ball close to his feet whilst travelling quickly and gliding past the opposition with ease. He is a composed finisher who has an eye for long shots; in this aspect you can draw similarities between him and Ukraine’s senior number 10, Yevhen Konoplyanka. 

He certainly has a promising career ahead of him. Yet to make an appearance for the senior Dynamo side, it seems more than likely that his chance will come at some point this season. He has a further opportunity to increase his reputation at next year’s U20 World Cup, where he will hope to emulate the performances of a young Viktor Kovalenko in 2015. Serhiy certainly looks like an exciting prospect for both Dynamo and the senior Ukraine side in the coming future. 


UPL MATCH PREDICTOR 2018/19 MATCHDAY 2

UPL PREDICTOR MATCHDAY 2

What a week of football it’s been. Dynamo Kyiv narrowly won the Super Cup in Odesa last weekend. FC Lviv rose to the top of the UPL table and Chornomorets got a shock win against Olimpik Donetsk! FC Mariupol began their pursuit of a Europa League group stage spot by drawing their first leg 1-1 away to Djurgarden of Sweden. There were also some highs and lows for the Ukraine U19 side who qualified for next years FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland. Having topped their group in the EURO U19 Championships, they were then heavily beaten in the semi final 5-0 by a superior Portugal team. All the UPL sides will have to put last week’s results to one side and push on with the continuing new season as we enter Matchday 2. With no draws in the last round of fixtures is it possible that this phenomena can carry on into this week? Let’s hope so!
Andrew Todos of Zorya Londonsk Weekly will be making predictions for every UPL game this season, against a variety of guests. 
Jack Cowap (L) & James Deacon (R) – Rylands Heath

Our second guest of the 2018 – 19 campaign is Jack Cowap, one half of the Luton based indie pop duo ‘Rylands Heath’. Jack and his college friend, James Deacon, started the group in 2016. Since then they’ve played at Birmingham’s ValeFest on multiple occasions, supported the Marsicans, performed at Jimmy’s Festival in Ipswich and were one of the opening acts for the 2017/18 Luton Town FC promotion celebration in the town centre.  Commenting on this Jack says “Yeah we’ve been lucky to do some really cool shows— the Luton celebration was probably the biggest crowd we’ve played to so was really cool. We even threw in some football chants for the locals (Woke up this morning feeling fine / I’ve got promotion on my mind / Nathan’s taking us up like he said he would…)” No doubt a classic on the terraces of Kenilworth Road!  Asked about what’s coming up in the near future for Rylands Heath, Jack replied “We’ve been fairly quiet at the moment,  just writing and planning for post-Uni activities! But we have got a gig coming up on 17th Aug in High Wycombe with a really cool band Only Sun who’ve got a sound I really love.” Onwards and upwards lads!

Alongside his musical talents, Jack is a passionate follower of football. He’s a big Liverpool fan but also regularly keeps tabs on  his local Luton Town side. Now he’s finished university he hopes to get to see more Luton games, revealing that the downside of Liverpool excelling under Klopp has meant it’s much harder to get tickets for Anfield. As a result it’s an easier option to stay local. 
With Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, being host to Liverpool’s Champions League final humiliation in May, Jack was asked whether the Merseyside outfit could build on this for the coming season. He said “It was a very tough night for me watching it down the pub (accompanied by none other than Mr Todos). I feel bad for Karius but you can’t complain when you splash £60 million on a new keeper alongside Keita and Fabinho. As a result I think we can come back stronger this year.” Unfortunately for Jack and Liverpool, they face Andriy Yarmolenko’s West Ham in their Premier League season opener, so it’s certain that last season’s despair will carry on until at least the Premier League’s second week! 
Finally we asked Jack about his knowledge of the UPL and Ukrainian football in general. He admitted “I don’t know too much but having lived with Andrew during my time at university meant I got a little bit of information every now and then. However, now this new blog is up and running I’m sure I’ll be an expert in no time!” 

RYLANDS HEATH SOCIAL LINKS:



Go and give Jack Cowap and Rylands Heath a follow and like by clicking the links to their various social media pages found below and also check out their Spotify and Youtube Channel for more of a listen to their music:

🎸Rylands Heath website

🎵Rylands Heath on IG

🎤Jack Cowap on IG

🎶Rylands Heath on Twitter

🎹Rylands Heath on Facebook

🎥Rylands Heath Youtube Channel

🎧Rylands Heath on Spotify 


PREDICTION ZONE


A correct result (WIN / DRAW/ DEFEAT) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns an extra 40 points.

SATURDAY


Oleksandriya v Zorya Luhansk

Todos’ prediction: 1-2 – Oleksandriya will put up a fight but Zorya’s extra quality will see them over the line with back to back wins.
Jack’s prediction: 2-0

RESULT: 1-0 – BANADA (85′)



FC Lviv v Dynamo Kyiv
Todos’ prediction: 0-2 – Dynamo looked promising against Vorskla midweek but the awful weather prevented any real football from being played. Dynamo should win comfortably at the Arena Lviv.  
Jack’s prediction: 1-0 – Jack predicts a big shock in this game! He justifies his hunch by saying “Luton Airport are running new flights to Lviv from this summer so they could become my team. Also got to have at least one upset.” 


RESULT: 0-1 – RUSYN (90+2′)

SUNDAY


Karpaty Lviv v Chornomorets Odesa


Todos’ prediction: 3-0 – After the disappointing result Karpaty got last week, they’ll be wanting to bounce back with a confident win against an early overachieving Odesa side.
Jack’s prediction: 2-2 – “It’s going to be an open game with someone giving up a 2-0 lead (the most dangerous score line in football).” 


RESULT: 1-0 – SHVED (16′)

Olimpik Donetsk  v Vorskla Poltava

Todos’ prediction: 1-1 – Definitely won’t be the most entertaining game but both sides have some good forwards so I see a score draw.
Jack’s prediction: 0-0 – “This one is going to be a snoozefest and both will remain without a win.” 


RESULT: 1-0 – BALASHOV (52′)



Mariupol v Desna Chernihiv

Todos’ prediction: 0-1 – Desna showed determination despite losing to Shakhtar last time out and with Mariupol having one eye on their Europa League second leg on Thursday, the Chernihiv outfit will look to get their first ever UPL three points.
Jack’s prediction: 2-1 – A close game just edged out by Mariupol 


RESULT: 1-4 – VAKULA (68′) / KHLYOBAS (3′,22′), FILIPPOV (59′,78′)



Shakhtar Donetsk v Arsenal Kyiv

Todos’ prediction: 5-0 – Shakhtar will be non repentant as they dismantle Ravanelli’s poor Arsenal team. 
Jack’s prediction: 4-0 – A second convincing win from the defending Champions.


RESULT: 3-0 – MORAES (10′), FERNANDO (32′), TAISON (37′)


MATCHDAY 2 – H2H WINNER: ANDREW TODOS 



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GUEST LEADERBOARD 

Total scores after week 2
Todos
80
Guests
90

Todos v Guests
P2
W1
D0
L1

UKRAINIAN PREMIER LEAGUE KIT REVIEW 2018/19



KITS KITS KITS


SHAKHTAR DONETSK 

Shakhtar seem to be keeping last season’s home strip for another season. This seems to be for the best, as last year’s kit looks great and the Nike templates for the coming season look very plain and ordinary. Moving onto the newly released away kit, Nike has adopted a ‘minimalist’ approach. The beige base with subtle stripes is supposedly meant to be inspired by the dust found inside coal mines, as an ode to the history of Shakhtar as their nickname ‘The Miners’ suggests. Overall, the Donbas side’s home colours impress but the away kit leaves much to be desired. 
Shakhtar Home: 8 / 10
Shakhtar Away: 5 / 10

DYNAMO KYIV

Dynamo Kyiv have started the new season with a new kit supplier. New Balance takes over from Adidas after their partnership, spanning over two decades, comes to an end. However, after the unique designs of last season, the new strips seem very underwhelming. The home kit is very basic and seems to be straight out of a team wear catalogue. However, with the sponsor, the strip looks considerably better. Collars should be left for school PE kits and rugby teams. Unfortunately, New Balance didn’t get this memo and have added a collar to the away jersey. It makes the kit look quite dated but not in a good way. Hopefully NB will pull their finger out next season and employ more competent design and market research teams.
Dynamo Home: 5 / 10
Dynamo Away: 3 / 10

VORSKLA POLTAVA




Last season’s bronze medallists, Vorskla have unveiled some nice, simplistic kits. Whilst the same Adidas template is being used across Europe, for many club and national team away strips such as Belgium and Sweden, they still look quite clean and fresh. Whilst researching for this article, it was pleasing to see how efficient, up to date and easy to navigate the Vorskla website was. Hats off to them. The home kit whilst just plain white, still looks a lot classier than Dynamo’s. The away kit is a direct replica of the new Watford away strip, whilst slightly underwhelming for an English Premier side, it’s perfectly adequate for Vorskla who have a considerably smaller worldwide reach.
Vorskla Home: 7 / 10
Vorskla Away: 6 / 10 

ZORYA LUHANSK


Zorya Luhansk have also got a generic strip for the coming season. They debuted their home strip in their UPL opener against Mariupol. The shirt was missing a sponsor and as a result looked very basic. Last year’s strips with alternately coloured sleeves and shoulder region have been massively downgraded. Once Zorya kick off their European campaign in a couple of weeks, it would be hoped for the sponsorship issue to be rectified. News on the away kit, is so far non existent. Zorya doesn’t seem to do big kit reveals, leaving an element of surprise until the team shows up on the pitch in a new jersey.  The side played in a very old black strip during the pre season but this is unlikely to be used in competitive games. Judging from the past few seasons, the away strip will most likely be exactly the same as the home but in a black variation. 
Zorya Home: 4 / 10
Zorya Away: TBC

OLIMPIK DONETSK

As far as available information goes, Olimpik Donetsk seem to be recycling their kits from the 2017/18 campaign for another year. Only this time they have a new sponsor, in the form of a Kyiv based supermarket with a bee as its mascot. This sponsor doesn’t really compliment the already simple strip. The Joma kits are also very simple and they look neither terrible nor do they excite. Having scoured the Olimpik social media channels, they seem to have played their pre season games under a number of different outdated kits and have even unveiled summer transfers holding a different white away shirt. So it would not be surprising if a kit change occurred again at some point during the duration of the season.
Olimpik Home: 4 / 10
Olimpik Away:  4 / 10

FC LVIV

FC Lviv’s kit partner is Legea, the Italian brand, known for its designs to resonate more with the nineties and early noughties, than with the present day. However, whilst the FC Lviv home strip, which they have carried on over from their last season in the Druha Liha, screams out “Eastern Europe” with its centred badge and chevron design, the away kit is something spectacular. Arguably the best strip in the entire UPL this season, the FC Lviv away shirt looks stunning. The navy top melting into a lighter shade looks really slick and professional, the sponsor compliments the shirt well and the badge is rightfully on the left hand side of the chest. Like Veres’ black away strip from last season with silver accents, FC Lviv take over with another strong kit of the season contender.
FC Lviv Home: 5.5 / 10
FC Lviv Away: 9 / 10

ARSENAL KYIV

Arsenal Kyiv have matched their new Italian manager with an Italian company branded kit. Zeus Sports, a relatively unknown kit supplier are the new manufacturers of the Arsenal Kyiv home and away jerseys. Both home and away strips seem to be relatively basic, reminiscent of Sunday League sides. Attempting to figure out which strip is which and whether the white variant is actually the away kit has been a difficult task. Throughout preseason, Arsenal have played in old Nike jerseys and in the white Zeus attire. So a possibility still remains of it changing altogether to a different Zeus option. Additionally, it seems that Arsenal have yet to secure themselves a sponsor as well, having played FC Lviv without one.
Arsenal Home: 4 / 10
Arsenal Away: 4/10

OLEKSANDRIYA

Oleksandriya’s new bold yellow home kit looks smoothAlmost entirely yellow with black accents and black shorts, Oleksandriya continue to see out their seasons with relatively indifferent kits. They just keep updating them to newer version specifications. With a secure sponsor, that matches the kits colours, the overall design is very sleek and cool. As of yet no information can be obtained as to what the away kits will be, but judging from previous seasons, it will most probably use the same template as the new home version. A black kit and a green kit will most probably be used as the alternatives to the yellow. It is also within possibility that Oleksandriya carry over their away and third kits over from last season. 
Oleksandriya Home: 7 / 10
Oleksandriya Away: TBC

KARPATY LVIV

Karpaty Lviv maintain all three kits that they released last season, only changing their sponsor from Zik TV to Marathon Bet. Overall the kits are quite bespoke and unique, with the green home carrying a traditional Ukrainian embroidery pattern, whilst the white away features some well known Lviv sights on its abdominal region. Joma seems to be a temperamental brand that can pull its finger out when its comes to design but only when it wants to. The Ukrainian National Team also has a bold and unique Joma home and away strip combination.
Karpaty Home:  8 / 10
Karpaty Away: 7 / 10

CHORNOMORETS ODESA

Legea is the official supplier of not one but two UPL teams. Chornomorets have begun the new season wearing last season’s home shirt. It it thus fairly reasonable to deduce that they will be continuing in it for the duration. Black and navy hoops make up the home strip whilst the away is white with two black and navy stripes protruding from the bottom and top. The Legea logo of a man kicking seems to be out of place. The strips would benefit from the Legea text logo instead. Overall, these kits are underwhelming. But this is not surprising for a side which had been relegated last season, miraculously returned and along with other clubs in the UPL is increasingly cash strapped.
Chornomorets Home: 5 / 10
Chornomorets Away: 4 / 10

MARIUPOL

Mariupol are yet another club which has decided to continue with old kits for another season. Despite this, the kits do look relatively good. The dark navy home strip is smart, whilst the sponsor makes it slightly more exciting. On the other hand, the away kit is quite loud. Also a Manchester City third kit from a couple of seasons ago, the orange and purple  works well with the FC Mariupol badge colours. 
Mariupol Home: 7 / 10
Mariupol Away: 6 / 10

DESNA CHERNIHIV

Newly promoted Desna are battling it out with FC Lviv for the best looking kit of the season. Desna’s white home kit with fading upward stripes looks superb. It is simple but it very much works. The away kit, copies the same design as the home but with instead has a dark navy base and lighter blue fading stripes. The away kit really is outstanding. However, as the FC Lviv away kit is the complete package with a complimenting sponsor and a more striking badge, FC Lviv just edges it. 
Desna Home: 8 / 10
Desna Away: 8.5 / 10

UPL MATCH PREDICTOR 2018/19 – MATCHDAY 1

UPL PREDICTOR MATCHDAY 1

It’s almost upon us. After two months away, the UPL returns on Sunday. Due to the Super Cup taking place on Saturday between Shakhtar and Dynamo in Odesa, the first round of top flight matches will stretch all the way into midweek. As with most football leagues across the world, the first few games are always the hardest to predict. With a lot of personnel changes occurring across the Ukrainian Premier League, Zorya Londonsk Weekly’s in house ‘football expert’ will just have to go with his gut when it comes to predicting this week’s results. As we all know pre season friendly games don’t really show us anything worthy of note, in relation to how the rest of the season will truly play out!  

Andrew Todos of Zorya Londonsk Weekly will be making predictions for every UPL game this season, against a variety of guests. 

Our first guest of the 2018 – 19 campaign is Vasyl (Vasya) Maksymiv from Брутальний Футбол, the popular Ukrainian football site which can be also found across all social media platforms. Famous for its funny sport related memes, posts, news and videos it’s no wonder Брутальний Футбол / @BrutFoot has amassed over 118,000 followers on VKontake and over 38,000 followers on Instagram, alongside well supported pages on Facebook and Twitter. Being an avid follower of the UPL himself, Vasya supports both Karpaty Lviv and Dynamo Kyiv in the Ukrainian Top Division. 

With Zorya Londonsk Weekly being a London based blog we also asked Vasya who he follows in the English Premier League. He told us that currently he’s most intrigued by Manchester City. He’s a fan of their playing style and has been drawn in further by their world class talent. However, he does also admit that the Oleksandr Zinchenko factor also plays a role in his regular following of the Mancunian club. 

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Andriy Yarmolenko

Through Брутальний Футбол (Brutal Football) Vasya also keeps a close eye on Ukrainian players across Europe’s top leagues. With one of those players being Andriy Yarmolenko, who recently moved to London to play for West Ham, we asked Vasya what his views were on the move and how he thought the winger would adapt to the Premier League. Vasya told us “Yarmolenko moved to West Ham at his own risk. He’s a top player. West Ham are a mid table Premier League side. As a result, I believe he’ll play an important role for them and I hope he will show his true ability when playing against all the top sides.” 


BF SOCIAL LINKS:

Go and give Vasya Maksymiv and Брутальний Футбол (Brutal Football) a follow or like by clicking the links to their various social media pages found below and also check out the BF website for loads of Ukrainian language football related content: 

Брутальний Футбол (BF) Website 

Брутальний Футбол (BF) on IG

Vasya Maksymiv on IG

Брутальний Футбол (BF) on Twitter

Брутальний Футбол (BF) on  VKontakte

Брутальний Футбол (BF) on Facebook
 
 

A correct result (WIN / DRAW/ DEFEAT) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns an extra 40 points.

MD 1 HEAD TO HEAD WINNER: VASYA MAKSYMIV

SUNDAY


Zorya Luhansk v Mariupol

Todos’ prediction: Zorya should edge this one comfortably with Mariupol having one eye on their midweek Europa League qualifier. 3-1
Vasya’s prediction: 2-1

RESULT: 2-1 – Gordienko (50′), Karavaev (85′) / Churko (P) (10′)




Karpaty Lviv v Oleksandriya

Todos’ prediction: Karpaty should start the season off strongly with their new signings after a relatively non chaotic summer against an indifferent Oleksandriya side. 2-1 

Vasya’s prediction: 1-0

RESULT: 0-2 – TSURIKOV (72′), PONOMAR (81′)


Arsenal Kyiv v FC Lviv

Todos’ prediction: I’m still sceptical about the appointment of Fabrizio Ravanelli as the new Arsenal Kyiv manager as he’s still a relatively inexperienced coach. As a result I think the solid core of last season’s Veres team that has since moved to FC Lviv will just edge out the newly promoted side. 0-1
Vasya’s prediction: 1-1

RESULT: 0-2 – VORONIN (28′), Zapadnya (50′)

MONDAY


Chornomorets Odesa v Olimpik Donetsk

Todos’ prediction: I’m predicting a relatively non eventful game but after the woeful season Chornomorets had last time out, I don’t see them starting this one off with any points. 0-1
Vasya’s prediction: 0-0

RESULT: 2-1 – RYZHUK (9′), TATARKOV (65′) / DEHTYAREV (70′)


WEDNESDAY


Dynamo Kyiv v Vorskla Poltava

Todos’ prediction: Taking into account Dynamo’s starts to recent seasons gone by, it’s usually a labored narrow victory that gets them over this first hurdle. Vorskla are a decent side so I am going for a narrow Kyivan win.  2-1
Vasya’s prediction: 3-0

RESULT: 1-0 – DALLKU (OG) (33′)



Desna Chernihiv v Shakhtar Donetsk

Todos’ prediction: Shakhtar have quite a few new players in their squad but I’m expecting them to gel quickly and start strongly with a comprehensive victory. 0-3

Vasya’s prediction: 1-4

RESULT: 0-2 – MORAES (31′), MARLOS (55′)


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GUEST LEADERBOARD


Total scores after week 1
Todos
40
Guests
70
Todos v Guests
P1
W0
D0
L1

GUEST LEADERBOARD


SCORE
GUEST LEADERBOARD
70
Vasya Maksymiv (@Brutfoot)
40
Todos (average after 1 week)

Ukrainian Premier League Preview – 2018/2019 Season

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THE UPL RETURNS



The Ukrainian Premier League kicks off this Sunday after its summer hiatus. As is the norm during both the winter and summer breaks, many changes have occurred in Ukrainian domestic football since the close of the 2017/2018 season in May. Club changes and transfers galore have transpired over the two-month off period. Three newly – promoted teams from the Persha Liha were expected to participate in the upcoming season. A reformed Arsenal Kyiv returns 5 years after its predecessor club was expelled due to financial problems, and Desna Chernihiv make their Premier League debut. However, FC Poltava who finished second in the Persha Liha, withdrew in late June as a result of the club being dissolved. With FC Poltava folding and denying UPL fans a hotly contested Poltava derby with Vorskla, an all too familiar team returns to the top flight, despite the fact that they were relegated just this past May. Chornomorets Odessa use another of their nine lives and ensure themselves a place in the new UPL season. Veres Rivne, last season’s surprise package, has also been involved in significant club changes over the close season. For a start, they will no longer be known as Veres, as the sporting side of the club has merged and swapped teams with FC Lviv. This is a reincarnated version of the ex – Ukrainian Premier League club of the same name, which up until last season, was plying its trade in the Druha Liha. 

The Usual Suspects



Shakhtar’s new signings (L to R): Junior Moraes, Marquinhos Cipriano, Fernando, Shevchenko and Maycon

Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv look to reignite their battle for the title, both with relatively new look squads. Shakhtar has had somewhat of an overhaul during the close season, with many familiar faces and stalwarts leaving for new challenges. Last season’s league top scorer, Faccundo Ferrerya, has left for Benfica, whilst club legend Srna, who was banned for the majority of 2017/2018 for doping, also leaves on a free to Cagliari in Serie A. However, the most prominent UPL exit has been that of Fred, who left for a colossal £50 million fee and joined Manchester United whilst his compatriot Bernard, also seems destined to leave before the major European league transfer windows close. Despite these personnel losses, Shakhtar have brought in a number of new Brazilians, including ex Dynamo striker, Junior Moraes, and have permanently signed the Nigerian forward, Kayode who showed glimpses of quality during the second half of last season, from Manchester City. Time will tell whether the likes of Maycon, Fernando and Marquinhos will adapt to European football, but judging by Shakhtar’s relatively successful scouting history, they may very well be suitable replacements for their summer’s outgoings. As a result, it seems once again they may just edge Dynamo to the title due to their superior forward options, which should guarantee comprehensive wins against all the weaker teams. 


Sidcley is unveiled as a Dynamo Player

On the other hand, Dynamo’s squad also has some new South American additions, with Tche Tche and Sidcley also joining from the Brazilian top flight. However, what seems to be most exciting about the upcoming season for Dynamo, is some of the young home – grown talent that has been named in the squad. Shaparenko will hope to cement a starting spot this upcoming year, eager to build upon an impressive breakthrough second half of last season. Andriyevskyi also returns to the squad after a notable loan spell at Zorya, with Khatskevich and fans alike, hoping that he can recreate his Zorya form and even the odd wonder goals at the Olympiyskiy. Verbic, having arrived during the last winter break from FC Copenhagen, will also hope to establish himself as the competent left winger that Dynamo have lacked over recent seasons. However, questions remain in the consistency and killer edge in the forward roles, where parallels can be drawn to the problems facing the Ukrainian National Team. Having only Besedin and youngster Rusyn to call upon, it is currently difficult to see Dynamo threatening Shakhtar, with the Kyiv side once again being heavily reliant on its midfield to create and score its goals. By releasing Moraes, Mbokani and Khlyobas this summer, with the latter player never really being given a chance under Khatskevich, Dynamo may fall just short of the title again with such a lack of depth in the forward areas. 


The Chasing Pack and The Relegation Flirters


Rafael Ratao signing for Zorya

Elsewhere in the league, Zorya Luhansk have also participated in some player reshuffling. Goalkeeper Andriy Lunin has left for Real Madrid for over £11 million, whilst fantasy football favourite and a big contributor of Zorya’s goals over the past two seasons, Iury, has left for Dubai. Defender Yevhen Opanasenko has also opted for a new challenge by leaving for Konyaspor. The replacement goalkeeper brought in for Spain bound Lunin is the solid Georgian Zauri Makharadze, moving from Olimpik Donetsk, whilst a new Brazilian recruit, Rafael Ratao arrives hoping to emulate his countryman in the striking department. Alongside these stand out transfers, Vitaliy Vernydub returns from his three-year stint playing in Azerbaijan under Roman Hryhorchuk, alongside winger Dmytro Khomchenovskyi who has had an unsuccessful journeyman experience across Europe since leaving Zorya in 2015. Zorya will be hoping to challenge Vorskla and Dynamo this coming campaign after falling behind in the second half of the previous season, after an impressive run in the Europa League group stages. 


Vorskla Poltava have made no major changes to their squad, bringing in Mysyk and Martynenko from the now folded Stal Kamianske and newly reinstated Chornomorets respectively. The prospect of the Europa League group stages in the autumn has seemingly seen them retain most of their big players for now. 


Mariupol’s summer has consisted of them returning the majority of their loanees back to Shakhtar. Serhiy Bolbat and Andriy Totovitskyi have returned to their parent club, but it would not be very surprising if they were to come back to the shores of the Azov Sea before the transfer window shuts again. One player coming from the other direction is striker Ruslan Fomin, who somewhat bizarrely moved from Mariupol to Shakhtar during last season’s winter break. He ended up not playing a single minute for the Miners but picked up a UPL winner’s medal anyway. If the likes of Bolbat and Totovitskyi don’t return, or some other half decent Shakhtar loanees aren’t drafted in, it looks difficult to see them replicating the fifth place finish of last season.


Хорхе Карраскаль – гравець «Карпат»!
Jorge Carrascal pens a permanent deal

On the other hand, Karpaty Lviv hope to challenge for a spot in the Championship Section of the league after years of points deductions and flirting with relegation. Building on last year’s astute transfer business, the club has permanently acquired Colombian midfielder, Jorge Carrascal who was their stand out player last season, whilst also tying Argentinian forward Francisco Di Franco to a permanent deal alongside the signing of Uruguayan Kevin Mendez from Roma. In addition to the new south American contingent, Karpaty have also brought in some seasoned Ukrainian talent in the form of defender Oleksiy Kovtun, midfielder Oleh Boroday and UPL fantasy football sub goalkeeper favourite, Herman Penkov from Stal. With what looks like a solid in depth squad on paper, it will be down to whether manager Oleh Boychyshyn can make sure his diverse pool of players can gel on the pitch. 


New signings (L to R): Yanchak, Bruno, Panambi alongside their new coach

Across town at Arena Lviv, as mentioned previously, FC Lviv are also preparing for their season in the UPL with a largely unchanged Veres squad. However, with new manager Gilmar Tadeu da Silva at the helm, Brazilians Panambi, Bruno and Augusto have all arrived to reinvigorate the former Veres side, whose form fell away during the Championship section of last season. Judging from both side’s business and preparations, The Lviv Derby should be quite the spectacle this season.


Oleksandriya finished top of the relegation group last season, ending on a positive goal difference and even getting a trophy for their efforts. During the close season, Volodymyr Sharan has offloaded some of his aging players, including 33 year olds Hitchenko and Starenkyi. He has managed to hold onto key man Hrytsuk and added one of the few bright sparks in a depleted Chornomorets side in the form of 24-year-old Kyrylo Kovalets. Whilst rival teams have lost some crucial players, the fact that Oleksandriya have held on to most of theirs could mean another push for a Europa League spot and most definitely a place in the Championship Group come next February. 


Olimpik Donetsk have had a busy summer. After a relatively disappointing season, Roman Sanzhar has brought in some well – established UPL names into his squad. Ex Karpaty and Dnipro midfielder Pavlo Ksyonz has arrived, alongside the talented Morozenko from Veres, whilst Roman Mysak comes in to replace Zorya bound Makharadze in goal. Despite a few wholesale changes, a lack of goals is Olimpik’s main cause for concern in the upcoming season, Bilenkyi will need some support upfront when it comes to it, otherwise another season in the relegation group awaits. 


Seemingly odds on for relegation for yet another season, are Chornomorets Odesa. Given yet another lifeline to play UPL football, many of their top players had left before their return to the top flight was confirmed. Ukraine U21 winger, Maksym Tretyakov, left for Slovakia, whilst Lyulka, Kovalets, Martynenko and Zubeyko all jumped ship and joined other UPL sides in the hope of not having to lose or draw the majority of their matches matches for yet another season. Signing 36-year-old and far from prolific striker Anatoliy Didenko from Mariupol has been the peak of their summer business so far and if that is anything to go by, compounded by a relatively inexperienced squad, another bleak season is likely to follow.


THE NEW BOYS


Ravenelli takes charge of an Arsenal Kyiv training session


Persha Liha (First league) champions Arsenal Kyiv enter the Premier League fold with Middlesbrough legend Fabrizio Ravanelli in charge. He has yet to bring in any substantial signings, bar that of Oleksandr Osman on loan from Dynamo and ex Dnipro striker Denys Balanyuk. Balanyuk, who has previously been involved with the Ukrainian National Team, has yet to rediscover the brief period of form that he encountered whilst at Dnipro somewhat two seasons ago. Furthermore, Ravanelli has yet to show any serious managerial prowess during his coaching career and as a result, his appointment could well be a risk regardless of how good he was as a player. 

Desna Chernihiv, Andriy Yarmolenko’s hometown club, have been on the brink of playing in the UPL for a number of seasons and after winning the relegation play off against Zirka Kropivnitsky, their time has finally arrived.  Desna has recruited wisely during the transfer window, adding a number of UPL veterans and regulars to their squad. Most notably, Serhiy Starenkyi, and Andriy Hitchenko have arrived from Oleksandriya as has defender Serhiy Lyulka from Chornormorets. Dmytro Khlyobas has been offloaded by Dynamo, whilst veteran and three times capped Zbirna forward Oleksandr Kovpak, has decided to have one last go in the UPL at the age of 35. Desna look to have a solid squad, which could well cause a few surprises in the upcoming season. 

PREDICTIONS


Taking into account the season preview above here my predictions for the upcoming UPL season:

Shakhtar – Champions
Dynamo – Runners Up
Zorya – Bronze
Karpaty – Championship Group 
Vorskla – Championship Group
Oleksandriya – Championship Group


Mariupol – Relegation Group
FC Lviv – Relegation Group
Desna Chernihiv – Relegation Group
Olimpik Donetsk – Relegation Group
Arsenal Kyiv – Relegation Group
Chornomorets – Relegation Group

Sport and Politics: Inextricably Intertwined – The Impact of Football on contemporary Ukrainian National Identity

Image result for shakhtar donetsk lviv arena
The power of sport is often understated in its role in contemporary nation building. This analysis will focus primarily on football due to its significance as the national sport of Ukraine. As the primary function of nation building is to bring people together in order to identify collectively with the state, it is obvious that sport can assist such a process. As Bale (1986, 18) writes ‘national identity and sport have historically been inextricably linked providing the examples of football at national level representing a town or region to international sides that represent the nation as a whole’. Football in Ukraine has historically been extremely popular. As with its political and cultural identifications, club football has traditionally been a divisive topic along which lines Ukrainian citizens drew their allegiances to. The most prominent rivalry between Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk embodied the often generalized political and cultural divergence between its people. Dynamo represented the capital and its club and fans felt greater identification with the Ukrainian state, whilst Shakhtar represented more acutely the Donbas region and its Sovietized working class population. This is further highlighted by the fact that their name translates as Miner, the main profession in the Eastern area. 
Since 2014, football has also been impacted by both Maidan and the war and has subsequently contributed more fervently towards the nation building process. Ukrainian ultras, who qualify as members of civil society, unanimously instigated the first changes towards a more unitive society by calling a truce between all rival fan movements including those in the East. They agreed to stop fighting amongst themselves in favour of joining together against a common enemy; the Yanukovych government, which was subsequently superseded by Russia once its infringement began (Fesenko, 2016). This bottom-up approach escalated further with many ultras and fans of clubs from across the country volunteering to fight for Ukraine in the Donbas. Whilst it should be conceded that ultras were traditionally the most patriotic of supporters, what can be highlighted is that the nation building process benefited from this. The commonality shared in passions toward football provided a precursor for support in defending the Ukrainian state’s territorial integrity, with a large proportion of such volunteers hailing from the traditionally more Sovietized and working class Eastern regions (Fesenko, 2016).
In addition, certain admistrative measures were also introduced to raise patriotic fervor and a greater of identification with Ukraine. The FFU (Football Federation of Ukraine) alongside the UPL (Ukrainian Premier League) initiated a motion of the playing of the national anthem prior to all domestic league matches (Interfax-Ukraine, 2017). This was in order to galvanize unity amongst both sides of supporters towards greater identification with the Ukrainian nation, which continues to the present. Furthermore, veterans of the war in the Donbas have frequently been invited to attend matches in a further sign of promoting a cohesive society using examples of the military to rouse unity around a common enemy (Ihor Surkis, 2017)
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Ex – Dnipro Striker Roman Zozulya (Centre) with Ukrainian soldiers near the frontline in the Donbas
However, as a result of the conflict in the East, Shakhtar and Zorya Luhansk have been displaced from their home stadiums and from their primary support hub. This has led them to play games in Kyiv, Lviv, Zaporizhya and Kharkiv, amongst others, where they have been welcomed and supported by the local populations, especially during European matches (Furmanov, 2017). This also highlights a greater unitive nature amongst football fans across Ukraine, willing to back a once rival club and region that previously was perceptively anti-Ukrainian in its identity (Rich, 2016).  Nevertheless, what should be noted, is that despite their displacements, the clubs remained in Ukraine and both clubs continue to represent Ukraine as a nation on the continental stage. Dnipro reached the Europa League final in 2015, despite not playing a single home game in Dnipro due to safety reasons regarding the War. Their achievements also inadvertently created greater support toward the Ukrainian state due to their positive representation of it by excelling at football (Polityuk, 2015). This was also compounded by some members of the Dnipro squad visiting the frontline and actively showing support for the Ukrainian soldiers.
Andriy Pavelko, the FFU President and MP for the Poroshenko Bloc, has implemented a modernization project of the governing body. This had led to a greater impetus on the national team with matches being hosted across the country, from Lviv to Odesa to Kharkiv. A supporters’ movement aiding people to travel and see the games, both at home and away, has also been initiated in order to garner stronger unitive support for both the national team and the country in general. Kyiv also successfully hosted the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid in May 2018. Overall, the combination of the football administrative bodies approaches and supporters’ own initiatives have benefited from each other. The links between sport and identifying with the state have inadvertently been strengthened due to the greater crossing of cultural and political boundaries that previously caused rivalry. Instead they now embody a greater unity with the Ukrainian state as a whole.  
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Real Madrid fans on Maidan in May 2018

Decommunisation – An essential process needed to distance the new Ukraine from its Soviet past?

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A Lenin statue being driven to the scrap heap of history
A prime example that illustrates the active nation building attempts of the post Maidan government is that of the process of decommunization. In May 2015, President Poroshenko signed the Decommunization Laws, that had been passed through parliament a month earlier, into official decree. There were four laws included in total. However, for the purpose of this blog post only one will be focused upon in depth, that being the Law ‘On condemning the communist and National Socialist (Nazi) totalitarian regimes and prohibiting propaganda of their symbols.’ The purpose of focusing on such a particularity is due to this legislation and its subsequent impact being the most visible in society. This allows a more thorough analysis of its impact on ordinary people and subsequent effect on their national identity perceptions. Essentially, the law stipulates that propaganda, symbols and any legal entities linked to either the Communist and Nazi regimes are banned. Alongside this, the legislation also orders the changing of geographical names and the demolition of monuments in relations to the latter stated regimes and related symbols (Yavorsky, 2015). The government’s intentions with such legislation are concurrent with the need to distance the Ukrainian state and its citizens symbolically from that of its Soviet past and to reiterate the notion that Ukraine is separate from Russia. 

Decommunization can technically be recognized as having been begun by civil society during Euromaidan when the main Lenin statue in Kyiv was felled by protesters. Similar events occurred across the country in 2014, including in the East and South a year before the government legislation came into law. Therefore, the insinuation of ceasing ties with Ukraine’s soviet identity in favour of Ukrainian sovereignty had already been instigated by a bottom-up approach to a certain extent. However, it is important to note that this demolishing of Lenin statues popularized as “Leninopad” and the subsequent linked official government legislation was not met with universal jubilation across Ukraine. Plokhii (2017) notes that it has been largely successful in its operational aims, as by early 2017 close to 1,300 additional Lenin monuments and statues had been removed alongside the renaming of numerous geographical locations including two oblasts and their centres; Kirovohrad now Kropyvnytsky and Dnipropetrovsk now Dnipro. But whilst such actions were dramatic in photography and symbolism, due to their removal being long overdue; many ordinary people held contempt towards the changes (Gogo,2015).

These civilians argue that rather than drastically changing the perceptions of their own Soviet identity or their attitudes towards the Ukrainian nation, the statues and street names had long lost their Soviet undertones. They had been left by inertia, with the symbols being viewed as landmarks on a map rather than being tied down to political ideology or a town’s Soviet identification (Gogo,2015). Pomerantsev (2018) illustrates this rather thoroughly through his quoting of Eastern born Ms. Vakhovska, “The statue is their personal Lenin, it’s where they used to kiss, where they stole roses from the flowerbeds, where they went on pointless parades and equally pointless rallies.” What can be taken from such a reaction is that the intention of these laws and actions have been less to do with drastically enforcing new perceptions of common history, but rather safeguarding the future from being reliant on colonial influenced perceptions of the past through its visible removal in day to day life. Over time, the changed names and vacant spaces will themselves become the norm in communities as they become the necessary markers for the future development of a society that overwhelmingly identifies with the Ukrainian nation state (Kulyk, 2015)

As Plokhii (2017) notes, the West and Centre of Ukraine had already shed most of their Soviet remnants by the 2000s but the removal of the residual statues, geographical markers and art symbolizing the bygone era and its identity, solidified their acceptance of the new independent Ukrainian state. Supporters of the decommunization scheme view it as of high importance to the progression of Ukraine’s independence and its aspirations for democratization and integration with the West (Mälksoo, 2018). With Russia reinvigorating its own Soviet past in such a vivid manner as of late, it can be seen that Ukraine and its government are acting in the correct way in order to prevent these neighbouring developments from fermenting further afield than the occupied Donbas territories and Crimea. Whilst it is apparent that this particular policy is not supported by the entire population, the decommunization legislation is vital in signifying the symbolic breaking with previously inconsistent state nation building policy. Such policy that refused to address and actively tackle the incompatible dual historical narratives, in favour of a coherent and inclusive independent Ukrainian state narrative (Kulyk, 2015).  

Does a Language issue actually exist in Ukraine? Common misconceptions debunked

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Translation “One Country” in Ukrainian and Russian

Language has historically been the primary battleground around which nation building has been centred on in Ukraine. The conflict between Ukrainian and Russian speakers’ rights has often been inflated by competing political parties in order to gather support and votes during elections. It should be noted that a language divide does exist within Ukraine, however its active contribution towards the harbouring of societal divisions is greatly overplayed (Hrytsak, 2014). When focusing on nation building theory, a singular language is often needed to reinforce national unity and the stability of territorial and cultural integrity of a said nation state (Kulyk; Hromadske, 2017). Due to Ukraine’s inescapable colonial past, it should be recognised that the Russification that occurred during that period and the bilingualism that resulted from it, have remained ingrained in many areas. Thus, it is close to impossible to wholly remove such a legacy. Kuzio draws parallels to Ukraine with the prolonged use of English in Ireland, where this has also been the case (Kuzio & D’Anieri, 2002, 21).
A weak enforcement of the 1989 Language and 1998 Education Laws, alongside the Kivalov-Kolesnichenko Law of 2012, that granted minority languages greater recognition and usage in their regions, has meant that the official state language has not developed nationwide to the extent that it is unilaterally considered as an inextricable factor needed to identify with the Ukrainian nation. Government approaches have been lethargic. Such reserved attempts have allowed Russian to be used freely and remain prevalent in the majority of urban areas outside Western Ukraine. Ukrainian has remained respected but Russian has maintained its position as the primary communicator for prestigious fields such as the media, sport and the preferred language of the urban class (Kulyk, 2017, KP)
Due to the elevated position of Russian in Ukrainian society, it has created a contradictory situation where urban Ukrainians are frequented with a choice. They can either prioritise their national identity by utilizing the Ukrainian language and culture, or favour their economic and societal development which valorises their Russian equivalents (Kaspruk, 2017). Therefore, similarly to how the older working class favours its economic survival, the urban class has upheld the notion of prestige that the Russian language held during the USSR. The problem that arises from this is that whilst Ukrainian is the official state language, it is not treated as such and without a greater commitment to using a solitary language with greater consistency in the public sphere, means that Ukraine has greater difficulties in perceiving itself as an independent state separate from Russia.
Russia’s aggression and its calls to defend ‘Russian speakers’ led to an alienation of the Russian speakers who garnered no connection to Russian state despite their use of the language. It was primarily these actions from an external actor rather than the utilisation of government led policy that created the rise in national identification with the Ukrainian state. Some did renounce the Russian language as a result, but others remain resolute in continuing to use Russian for communicative purposes. Nevertheless, they simultaneously assert that they are patriotic and devoted to the perpetuation of Ukrainian statehood(Kulyk, 2016b, 91; Kulyk, 2017, KP). Even Russian commentators such as Trenin (2018) have conceded that Russian as a language has ceded its position as a political marker of identification. Therefore, the nation building process seems to be showing signs of cohesion arising from a bottom-up approach. Language, whilst divided, has become less divisive in nature due to the reduction in its politicization and by civil society identifying more greatly with the Ukrainian nation irrespective of linguistic preferences. This is most vividly illustrated on the frontline of the war in the Donbas. Russian speaking and Ukrainian speaking volunteers and conscripts originating from all regions of Ukraine have cooperated together bilingually, resulting in some success in repelling further occupation attempts of Ukrainian territory (Dickinson, 2017; Trenin, 2018).
Despite language seeming to be less of an issue in relation to the nation building process, Portnikov (2018) proposes that there still remains a need to continue the Ukrainization of the state in order to solidify separation from Russia and also to increase the competence and effectiveness of the state by being able to incorporate all citizens into a political body that can cooperate. Portnikov notes that this can be best facilitated through communicating in the same language. In Ukraine, this is highly problematic for its smaller more compactly settled ethnic minorities, namely Romanians and Hungarians, who are largely unversed in the official state tongue. This has resulted in these ethnicities remaining within their own small communities; essentially fostering their own ghettoization due to the lack of opportunities in the job market and political framework that arise from not knowing Ukrainian adequately (Kulyk; Hromadske, 2017). The current Ukrainian government has intended to rectify this through the imposition of a new law on education. It requires all state (public) education to be carried out solely in the Ukrainian language. These minority languages including that of Russian are permitted to be taught as supplementary secondary languages. However, the success of such a law rests in its implementation (Tulup, 2017). 
As Polese (2011, 47) explains, nation building success does not rely solely at the feet of the government but it is ultimately reliant on the ‘desire and capacity, by common people, to oppose or accommodate such a project.’ This is where the 1989 language law and the previous law on education of 1998 failed, with no comprehensive structure facilitating and overseeing the changes, it made their execution hard to control and measure. However, an education law alone is insufficient as has been demonstrated in the past. Without addressing the essential need for Ukrainian in larger socio economic life, such as the necessary requirement of it for public and private sector jobs, the progression of the Ukrainian language will not occur. The current administration remains hesitant to make any such radical upheavals, still trying to appease potentially hostile Russian speakers (Kulyk, 2017, KPHromadske, 2017).As Minich (2018) confirms, it is in fact the government that is holding back the nation building process in the language field. Using data from a survey conducted by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, it is conclusive that whilst Ukrainians were previously deeply divided over the language and education debacle, in recent years there has been a significant increase in favour of Ukrainian as the primary language for education. 


What Will the Future Bring? – An analysis of Youth Perceptions regarding Identity and Government in Ukraine

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President Poroshenko greets Ukrainian Youths

Having analyzed one generational and societal class’ reasoning toward a lack of identification with the state in the previous post  it also would be appropriate to see whether Polegkyi’s claims can be supported by some empirical data relating to a different cohort of society. By using data from the Generation Z survey conducted by the New Europe Center in Kyiv, analysis can be drawn from how the future generation of Ukraine views its collective identity in light of the aftermath of Euromaidan and Russian aggression. By focusing on the age group of 14-29 year olds that has only ever known an independent Ukraine, it will be easier to grasp a more objective viewpoint, independent of past personal historical experiences that may influence older relatives and generations in their collective national identifications. The age range in question accounts for around 8 million people which is the equivalent to a fifth of Ukraine’s population and thus can give an accurate precursor for what the future of Ukrainian national identity potentially beholds (New Europe Center, 2017, 5). 

When participants were asked about identifying as ‘citizens of my home town’ this obtained the highest share of identification across the country with that also being uniform in individual regions. However, when asked whether they view themselves as Ukrainians by nationality a resounding 95% agreed – this majority is even prevalent in Eastern Ukraine where 88% of participants regarded themselves as Ukrainian. From such results it can be gathered that the younger generation of Ukrainians embraces a dual-identity, holding a sense of belonging with their hometowns, whilst on the larger scale identifying as Ukrainians by nationality. However, they view those in control of the state apparatus as corrupt. Political leaders were viewed with severe distrust, with 74% showing such a lack of confidence in politicians (New Europe Center, 2017, 7). Therefore, it can be inferred further that the youth interpret a differentiation between identifying with the Ukrainian state due to its distrusted officials, and view their own civic Ukrainian national identity being detached from this. Alongside this data, a poll conducted by the Gorshenin Institute, concluded that this younger generation views itself as Ukrainians far greater than older ones (New Europe Center, 2017, 28-29). 
These findings highlight that regionalism is in part an inaccurate phrase used to justify the ineffectiveness of state induced nation building, as this age group, whilst identifying closely with their own towns, showed great commonality in their association with the Ukrainian nation. This seems to insinuate that bottom-up civic nationalism has become the most popular identification marker across the country, with it being more accepted that traditional ethnic markers such as language and ethnicity are no longer the constrictors of defining what it is to be a Ukrainian. This civic cross-regional approach demonstrated its growth during the Euromaidan when protests occurred in all administrative regions of Ukraine. In comparison, whilst similar civic action during the Orange Revolution was almost entirely focused within the West and Centre. This also seems to explain why Ukrainians have unilaterally rejected separatism and increasingly favour a Ukraine independent from its historical imperial neighbour.  

This analysis propagates that the Ukrainian nation building project has been undertaken more effectively from a bottom – up approach across the regions and less so from the direct instruction of Kyiv. The more educated citizens have reached decisions themselves about their identity, due to the repercussions of nationwide events and the actions of an external actor attempting to infringe their independence. This has led to a greater embrace of European democratic values supplemented by Ukrainian ethnocultural markers. The ethnocultural factors are less of an ideological daily influence, rather they signify a greater acceptance of Ukraine’s unique history and traditions as being separate from that of the Russian state (Kulyk, 2016a, 607). Whilst this identity still remains stronger in the western and central regions, the dividing line that used to differentiate those with exclusive Russian and Soviet sympathies and those with Ukrainian ones, has moved further East towards the Donbas and its local urbanized regions where regional association, Soviet nostalgia and calls for some economic alignment with Russia still persists to some degree (Kulyk, 2016a, 607). New dividing lines have opened up for exploitation by political elites to take advantage of. By having less ability to focus on ethnic and identity cleavages as they did so in the past, the new electoral battlefield seems to be gravitating around divisions relating to economic grievances, NATO membership and the prospects for the war torn East and the ways in which to resolve and reintegrate the territories (Minich, 2018).