PARSIPPANY, N.J. – Ukraine’s soccer clubs – specifically Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv in the UEFA Champions League, and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the UEFA Europa League – continue to climb up the standings.
Shkahtar Donetsk, in Group A, is in third place with three points after four matches played. Shakhtar won 3-0 against Malmo (Sweden) on November 3; lost 0-1 in its first-leg match against Malmo on October 21; lost 0-3 against Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) on September 30; and lost 0-4 against Real Madrid on September 15.
Dynamo Kyiv, in Group G of the Champions League, is also in third place with five points after four matches played. Dynamo lost 1-2 against Chelsea in its second-leg match on November 4; tied 0-0 with Chelsea on October 20; won 2-0 against Tel Aviv on September 29; and tied 2-2 with Porto on September 16.
Shakhtar’s remaining match schedule includes Real Madrid on November 25 and PSG on December 8. Dynamo’s next matches are against Porto on November 24 and against Tel Aviv on December 9.
Dnipro is in third place of Group G of the Europa League with four points after four matches. Dnipro lost 0-3 against Saint-Etienne on November 5; lost 0-1 against Saintt-Etienne (France) on October 22; lost 0-1 against Rosenborg (Norway) on October 1; and tied 1-1 with Lazio on September 17. Dnipro plays against Lazio on November 26 and against Rosenborg on December 10.
Ukraine’s WFC Kharkiv finished in second place of Group 8 of the UEFA Women’s Champions League standings. The second-place finish knocked the club out of the main round. Ukraine finished in third place with 19 points, tied with Slovakia, but Slovakia led on points.
Ukraine’s women’s team is in fourth place in Group 3 of the UEFA Women’s European Championship. Ukraine tied 2-2 with Romania (second place) on October 22 and lost 0-3 against France (first place) on October 27. Other members in Group 3 include Greece (third place) and Albania (fifth place). The team’s match schedule picks up in 2016 on March 4 against Albania, against Greece on March 8, against Albania again on April 8, against France on April 12, against Greece on June 3 and 7, and against Romania on September 15.
Ukraine’s men’s national team (ranked in 28th place by FIFA for November) finished in third place with 19 points in Group C of the UEFA European qualifiers for the Euro Cup 2016. Ukraine lost 0-1 against Spain on October 12, won 2-0 against Macedonia on October 9, and tied 0-0 against Slovakia on September 8. Group C was won by Spain, with Slovakia in second place, and Ukraine did better than Belarus (fourth place, 11 points), Luxembourg (fifth place, four points), and Macedonia (sixth place, four points). Ukraine is set to compete in the playoffs against Slovenia on November 14 (at home) and November 17 (away).
Crimea’s soccer clubs’ status within UEFA has been in limbo since Russia’s forced annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014. Earlier this year, UEFA President Michel Platini met in Moscow with Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, regarding UEFA’s proposal of setting up an independent soccer structure that would unite existing soccer federations in Crimea under the temporary jurisdiction of UEFA. UEFA did not penalize the Russian Football Union (RFU) for incorporating three Crimean clubs – TSK Symferopol, SKCF Sevastopol and Zhemchuzhina Yalta – into the Russian Second Division for the 2014-2015 season, but instead blocked the RFU from incorporating the clubs, by creating a Crimea-only competition. The Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) lodged a complaint against the RFU with UEFA and FIFA, and UEFA banned the RFU from incorporating Crimean clubs into its competitions. Gianna Infantino, UEFA general secretary, said Crimea would be designated a “special zone for football purposes.”
The first match of the Crimean Premier League (comprising eight teams) was a 2-2 draw between FK Sevastopol and TSK Simferopol on August 22. The FFU announced in June that it would incorporate Tavriya Symferopol (SC Symferopol) into the Ukrainian Premier League and re-establish its base in Kherson. The FFU stated that it wants to return to a 16-team format for the 2016-2017 season.
There is speculation that a conflict will emerge by the next season as to the legal standing of each team of the same name – one in Russia-annexed Crimea and one in Ukraine. The precedent was set in Georgia, with a South Ossetian club – Spartaki Tskhinvali – that has been based in Tbilisi since 2006 and plays in the Georgia Umaglesi Liga.
TSK Symferopol tied 2-2 with Rubin Yalta on November 7; two more matches are scheduled – on November 14 Okean Kerch plays against Symferopol and on November 18 FC Bakhchisarai plays against TSK Symferopol. Symferopol leads the standings with 27 points, followed by FK Sevastopol, Rubin Yalta, FC Bakhchisarai, Kafa Feodosia, FC Yevpatoria, Okean Kerch and Titan (Berkut) Armyansk. Results from the Crimean Football Union can be found at http://www.fctsk.ru/matches.priemierleague.
The top two teams in the Crimean Football Union are relatively financially independent, while the remaining six teams are directly funded by Russia’s Ministry of Sport, as reported by Crimea-based journalist Denis Trubetskoy for Der Spiegel.
The league does not offer qualification for European competitions. The Crimean Football Union is headed by its president, Yury Vetokha (who ran unopposed and was likely selected by Moscow), and includes members of the Republican Football Federation of Crimea and the Football Federation of Sevastopol.
Former Manchester United player Andrey Kancheliskis, who was born in Kirovohrad and began with Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk, is rumored to be a candidate for a coaching job with Yevpatoria. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Kanchelskis chose to represent the Russian Federation instead of Ukraine, and his last coaching job in Latvia (2014) saw the team relegated.
The RFU, UEFA, FIFA and the FFU held a series of meetings in September, where a decision was made then to set up a working group that would be given the task of settling the situation in Crimea. A UEFA delegation, led by Frantisek Laurinec, indefinitely postponed its visit to Russia-annexed Crimea for a scheduled October 3 meeting that was to open the Crimean Football Union in Symferopol. Mr. Laurinec was former president of the Slovak Football Association (1999-2010).
As Mr. Trubetskoy explained, people living on the Crimean peninsula may not miss Ukraine, but they certainly miss the Ukrainian Premier League.