Ukraine: The Road To Euro 2012

The outgoing Myron Markevich

“I’ll start with the airports,” said Markiyan Lubkivsky, Tournament Director of Euro 2012. Lubkivsky then proceeded to rattle of specific dates linked to when, he thinks, each airport in Ukraine will be able to accommodate the mass of people heading there for the 2012 tournament. The director also informed that all was running smoothly to have the appropriate stadiums ready for use by June and July of 2011, despite concerns that Donetsk, the home of Shakhtar, is too small a city to provide hotel rooms for the large quantities of journalists, players and fans. The one thing that Lubkivsky could not guarantee, however, is whether the Ukrainian national team will be ready.

This week the national team was shrouded in controversy with the resignation of manager Myron Markevich due to the fact that he wanted to concentrate solely on the other facet of his managerial career: Metalist Kharkiv. In the chaos that ensued, President of the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU), Grigoriy Surkis suggested that Markevich’s decision had been forced upon him by someone “behind the scenes.”

An added bout of board room mudslinging ensued when head of the FFU fair play committee Igor Kochetov proclaimed his view on another person acting in a dual role with both Metalist and the FFU: Sergei Storozhenko. Kochetov claimed that Storozhenko, the Vice President of the FFU, needs to decide where his loyalties lie, adding that he “doesn’t know who’s shirt he holds dearest.”

Kalitvintsev: Firefighter

In response to the back-handed jibes between members of what is essentially supposed to be a close-knit, functioning football federation, Surkis, in a tremendous display of competence, ushered in Markevich’s former assistant Yuri Kalitvintsev. Kalitvintsev is seen as a fire-fighter, guaranteeing to safeguard the future of the national side and, possibly, steady the ailing ship until the federation can solve the internal feuding and appoint a successor to guide the team to Euro 2012.

Kalitvintsev, in traditional caretaker fashion, appeared unflappable to the most probing of media questions and presented an intelligent and mild-mannered image in the wake of this troublesome period. The caretaker boss rebuffed worries stating that “there is no need for panic” whilst outlining his ambition for the national side stating that they can win the upcoming European Championships. As experienced football fans will now know, words mean little when it comes to achieving results and popularity, but Kalitvintsev moved quickly to appoint former national team hero Sergei Rebrov to the coaching staff. A smart move that will no doubt appease a portion of discontented fans.

Money talks

The notion of a caretaker also requires there to be a permanent manager instilled at some point and in predictable fashion, Ukrainian press are reporting that, inimitable cash-cow, Lord Sven-Goran of Eriksson has thrown his diamond encrusted hat into the ring. The Swede’s unmatched ability to land himself cushy, cash-laden, jobs may serve him well as a candidate and, with the fact that Ukraine, as hosts, have already qualified for the 2012 tournament Sven may just fancy a swift venture behind the long-felled Iron Curtain.

Whoever takes the reigns as the national team boss, they would do well to avoid the poisoned boardrooms of the FFU, where any snivelling directors should be greeted with great hesitancy. Ukraine, like many Eastern European sides, have technical quality in abundance but the former Soviets never seem to be able to orchestrate a fully functioning team, note the striking similarities with the FFU boardroom.

In the race to equip the country for the 2012 tournament, minds had strayed from the fortunes of the national team until the events of this week. The fact that any new manager will not have to navigate through a qualifying campaign may stunt the development of the national side but, with footballing mercenaries such as Sven out there, there should be no lack of takers for the job. And if all else fails, at least those airports will be ready!