Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I recently read the book, "Dynamo", by Andy Dougan.
I think that many people have heard part of this tale, at least the more popular version: the Ukranian footballers who in Nazi-occupied Kiev defied the Wehrmacht in what was to be a friendly football match they were supposed to lose, and died for it. Much of the myth around the legendary side Dynamo Kiev is built up on this. Andy Dougan largely follows the story; he tries to demystify the myth of the heroic players who defied all odds for their love of the game; most were men trying to survive a war, and had been working at a bakery managed by a sports-crazed Ukranian, who decided to make a football team from all the former stars to play in a football tournament set up by the German occupiers.
The team outperformed all, even humiliating a German side. But that is where the story somehow questions whether the team actually was torn apart because of that victory: many of the players continued in Kiev, some survived the war, and some were sent to Siretz, a prisoner camp known for its barbarism on the outskirts of Kiev. Three of the great players of Dynamo Kiev were executed at Siretz, a part so well described in the book that one feels the grueling suffering the prisoners went through. The ones shot were Ivan Kuzmenko, Alexei Klimenko and the great Nikolai Trusevich, who had been one of the best goalkeepers in the world at the time. And here, Mr. Dougan adds to the legend telling how Trusevich last words were “red sport will never die” and wearing his goalkeeper jersey!
The book is excellent, as it puts the dilemmas of the war into the trivial world of football; how football was seen both as a means to motivate people, and as an outlet for political protest in an environment where life was worthless (this book is interesting to read in conjunction with Simon Kuper’s “Ajax, the War and the Dutch”, also about the world of football during WWII).
If one is interested in sports, football and history, this is well-worth a read!

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