Ukraine was co-host of Euro 2012. None of the matches were likely to be as memorable as that played 70 years ago between teams from Ukraine, then under Nazi occupation, and a Germany military team. Although the details of that game have been lost to history, the experience remains a source of pride for the Ukrainian people.
In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Much of Ukraine was liberated from communist control. Unfortunately, “liberation” by Nazis proved to be merely another form of oppression.
In August 1942, a match was organized between a Ukrainian team, composed of bakery workers, and a German team, made up of military personnel manning anti-aircraft guns. The game was played at Zenit Stadium, a deteriorating facility now named Start Stadium still used for football. The Ukrainians won 5-3.
Beyond that the facts are largely shrouded in mystery. Soviet propaganda and Ukrainian romanticism rule.
All the participants are now dead. Much of the information about the match came from Makar Goncharenko, a wing for the team who gave several versions of the match. Several Ukrainian players were killed in the months following the match, but there is no proof that they were deliberately targeted for their role in the Ukrainian football victory. The players may have been heroes more inadvertently than intentionally.
Nevertheless, Ukrainians can look back proudly for this small victory in a horrid war where both occupying forces, Nazi and Communist, deserved to lose. Observed Kirill Boyko, manager of the fan club of today’s Dynamo Club: “We are patriots for our country and our team. We believe in legend.” Today Ukrainians can benefit from some positive legends.