June 23, 2017

June 27, 1992


Twenty-five years ago, on June 27, 1992, 11,815 people gathered at Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway, N.J., to watch the first international game between the national teams of Ukraine and the United States of America. The 0-0 draw was deemed a triumph for Ukraine.

“It was a tremendous, tremendous success for the Ukrainian team,” said Ukrainian coach Victor Prokopenko. “This is the first time this team, which is made up of professional players from Ukraine, played together as a team.”

The team’s main coach, Valeriy Lobanovsky, was completing coaching commitments in Egypt, and resumed coaching duties in August 1992.

Mr. Prokopenko said that team was fatigued and jet lagged due to visa delays in Moscow, which further delayed their arrival in New Jersey until late Friday evening. During the match on Saturday, Ukraine had two important scoring opportunities – one early and one late in the match.

The U.S. team on the other hand, had practiced at Rutgers Stadium all week long.

“This was more than a game,” Mr. Prokopenko said, “We’ve been waiting for this game for 90 years.”

The half-time break featured a performance by the Chaika Ukrainian dance ensemble of Yonkers, N.Y. Also in attendance at the event were Ambassador Oleh Bilorus, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, and representatives of various Ukrainian organizations. Mr. Bilorus kicked out the ceremonial first ball of the match and delivered greetings on behalf of President Leonid Kravchuk.

Since the country declared independence on August 24, 1991, players representing Ukraine had competed under the Commonwealth of Independent States in the 1994 World Cup that was hosted by the U.S. Ukraine was unable to apply for entry into the qualification rounds of the tournament, as Ukraine was not yet recognized as a member of FIFA. Ukraine was accepted a full member of FIFA at the world soccer governing body’s congress in Zurich in July 1992 (the week after the match).

A post-match reception was held at the Ramada Inn Hotel in East Hanover, N.J., where organizers congratulated the team and presented them with a monetary gift. The key to the city of Clifton, N.J. was presented by Stefan Tatarenko on behalf of Councilman Peter Eagler. During the reception, it was revealed how the match almost didn’t happen due to the many difficulties the team had to overcome, namely, Russian interference.

The U.S. Soccer Federation submitted an invitation to the team through the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, but it was not suitable for the type of visa required by U.S. immigration authorities. Instrumental in assisting the team were Ihor and Eugene Chyzowych, who worked with the embassies in Moscow, Kyiv and Washington to resolve the matter, just hours before the team was scheduled to depart from Moscow.

Source: “U.S. vs. Ukraine : 0-0 tie hailed as victory,” by Kristina Lucenko, The Ukrainian Weekly, July 5, 1992.