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THE GLITTER AND POVERTY OF TELEVISED SOCCER Random thoughts on contemporary sports journalism and journalism in sports

21 April, 00:00
By Valentyn Shcherbachiov

Now we all know that sports and soccer in particular are closely tied with politics. But if sports is fair play and concrete results, high politics is different.

Today we are living in the inertia of the past, gradually losing everything good replacing it with surrogate slogans and short term fillers. The situation with soccer is a perfect illustration. We have a superb club, Dynamo, and at the same time the roots of the game are dying out: soccer schools for children are closing due to lack of funding. The major part of those still open are operating only because the coaches really love their pupils, their job, and the game itself. Some of them manage to work with many children and achieve success on the international level, even though the team has no sponsor.

Take the children’s soccer team Stal (Steel), for instance. Its president, Leonid Kryvytsky, attracted enthusiasts to work with him and the club is alive and well. Many of the boys’ mothers are happy: “My son is on the right path”. And this could serve as an example for other cities and towns of Ukraine.

In the past we had a perfectly mastered organization for training highly attuned athletes and close relationships between coaches and young players. But now these unique people live and work of their own accord, helped by no one. Top officials think about them only at election time or on other important political actions. Sponsors lack sufficient motivation to grant money to young athletes in general and to soccer in particular.

I have spent much time with people who work with young and adult soccer players, solving their little problems. Loving soccer with all my heart and seeing for it a great future, I have tried to help them make their way through to top-level politicians and bureaucrats. Not everybody listened to them; not everybody even let them into the office!

But the ideal scheme for Ukrainian soccer is pretty and promises a great future for it within twenty years if:

1. Every child who wants to play soccer should be given such the opportunity. Children are the grounding the future results and success. It will also keep them off the streets. The Soccer Federation of Ukraine has adopted a program to do just this.

2. Clubs should have schools and train the reserve. Boys should understand that soccer is going to be their everything, their life and their job.

3. Young coaches who show initiative should be trusted more.

Everything is simple and everybody knows it. The scheme was developed not by me but by professionals, people who have spent their whole lives in soccer.

Back in the times of the Soviet Union, I could defend a young promising coach or name the people guilty in the decline of a certain kind of sports with my articles. But now, unfortunately, those with money and power do not notice such reportage. Or they will only forbid the journalist to work or even threaten his life.

New sports heroes have appeared in Ukraine, and they are actually as far from it as they can only be. Hence, it is no surprise that some of them are incarcerated and some are wanted. Being a journalist today means living in danger.

I have suggested launching an All-Ukrainian sports channel, but the very idea of such a channel means trouble and no personal income for the bureaucrats. They are state employees and the state pays them their salaries, which is why I think they should help and not throw up obstacles. I hope that soon the Ukrainian people will have its own sports channel. Because real sports and the real people are beyond the power of bureaucrats who only care about their own money. They will leave and experts will take their places. With time Ukrainian sports and soccer in particular will cease to beg for money and we again rise back to the sports of our past.

Courtesy Mikhail Chernichkin’s photo archives:
When we were young... Valentyn Shcherbachev (r) and Volodymyr Maslachenko

Photo by Volodymyr Rasner, The Day:
Serhiy Rebrov, sharpshooter of the Ukrainian National and Kyiv Dynamo, in his element...


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