This is the seventh in a series of examinations of soccer/football-related legends and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of all the previous soccer/football legends.
SOCCER/FOOTBALL LEGEND: A group of Ukrainian athletes/prisoners of war were executed after they defeated their Nazi jailers in a game of football/soccer.
STATUS: Enough False for a False
It is now over seventy years since the start of the Second World War, but stories of the atrocities committed by the Nazis during the war still resonate to this day. In the case of Kiev (in their language, Kyiv), the capital of Ukraine, the population was decimated during the war from 400,000 people to less than 100,000. While it might not have been specifically stated at any point, it appears evident that the Nazis’ plan was to cull the population of the Ukraine to make room for eventual German colonization.
In such a terrible environment, the citizens tended to take their victories wherever they could, and in the case of the people of Kiev, their method of fighting back came in the form of football/soccer. However, like any other victory during war, their actions came with great risks. Today we shall take a look at the bravery of Start, City of Kiev All-Stars, and the awful price they paid for their bravery.
Soccer/football first started to catch on in Ukraine in the late 1920s. FC Dynamo Kyiv was formed in 1927, as part of the Dinamo Soviet sport society. Quickly, though, they became officially sponsored and funded by the NKVD (the Soviet military police, the KGB was an offshoot/evolution of the NKVD). Dynamo was the only team deemed worthy of hanging with the football clubs from Moscow. In fact, their success was a great aid in the creation of the Soviet Championship in 1936 (by the time the Championship began, though, Dynamo had slipped a bit and did not win a title and by the end of the decade were not a real contender for the title).
Nine matches into the 1941 season, on June 22, 1941, World War II began. Many members of Dynamo enlisted in the Soviet Army and the remaining members worked in civil defense back home in Kiev. It was to no avail, as the German forces quickly captured Kiev, along with 600,000 Ukrainian soldiers. After some time, a great many soldiers were allowed to return to Kiev to live and work in the now Nazi-ruled city (a great many were also killed or were not allowed to leave prison).
In Spring of 1942, Dynamo goalkeeper Mykola Trusevych was finally released from prison. He was given a job at Kiev’s Bakery Number 3. The Nazi-installed manager of the bakery, Iosif Kordik, was a big Dynamo fan and he tried his best to get Dynamo players work at the bakery. After awhile, Kordik came up with the idea of forming a bakery football team. Trusevych began scouring the city looking for players and eventually put together a roster of mostly former Dynamo players, but also a few players from a rival team, Lokomotiv Kyiv. The players were Mykola Trusevych, Mikhail Svyridovskiy, Mykola Korotkykh, Oleksiy Klimenko, Fedir Tyutchev, Mikhail Putistin, Ivan Kuzmenko, Makar Goncharenko from Dynamo and Vladimir Balakin, Vasil Sukharev and Mikhail Melnyk from Lokomotiv Kiev. They would play in the local league, run by Georgi Shvetsov, whose team was called Rukh.
The players were initially a bit wary about playing soccer in Occupied Kiev, as it almost felt like they were being Nazi sympathizers, but ultimately they decided that playing would be more helpful than it would be detrimental to Kiev, so they agreed to join the league (they also made a point to wear red uniforms).
The team was called FC Start, and they soon began known as the City of Kiev All-Stars, as they destroyed their opponents. Soon they would be pitted against teams made up of soldiers from various garrisons – they defeated them all.
On August 6, 1942, they faced off against an All-Star team from the German Luftwaffe. Start beat the team, who went by the name Flakelf, 5-1.
Flakelf asked for a rematch, which Start complied with, and on August 9, the two teams played again. Here is where myth comes into play. The myth states that Start was executed by a firing squad in the summer of 1942 for defeating an All-Star team from the German armed forces by 5 goals to 1.
In actuality, Start defeated Flakelf 5-3, despite the efforts by the Nazi referee to make the game lean towards Flakelf as much as they could. In addition, despite orders to do so, Start refused to give the Nazi salute to start the game. At half-time, up 3-1, the players were given one vague warning that winning might not be a good idea and one more explicit request from Georgi Shvetsov, the head of the league, to throw the match. They did not and held on to the 5-3 victory.
However, the team was not executed after the game. In fact, they played another match a week later, destroying Shvetsov’s Rukh 8-0. The next day, almost all of the members of the team were arrested (under the pretense of them being suspected of working for the NKVD), tortured and thrown into the nearby labour camp at Siretz.. One member of the team, Nikolai Korotkykh, died from the torture (a few members who were absent the day the police came were either arrested the next day or escaped and hid for the rest of the war – sources are conflicted on that). The conditions in these labor camps were not much better than torture itself. Workers were treated as slaves and were practically worked to death.
In February of 1943, in retaliation for acts of Ukrainian dissidence, the Nazis killed one third of the population of Siretz. Ivan Kuzmenko, Oleksey Klymenko, and the team founder, goalkeeper Nikolai Trusevich, were among those executed.
Word eventually got out about the heroism of FC Start, and the surviving members of the team became heroes in post-war Ukraine. This horrific, yet heroically moving story, has been adapted into film a number of times after the war, including once in an English film, Escape to Victory, starring Sylvester Stallone (if you thought the myth changed the real story a lot, wait until you see how much the Stallone film changed the story).
Thanks to Andy Dougan brilliant book, Dynamo: Defending the Honour of Kiev for the information!
SOCCER/FOOTBALL LEGEND: A linesman who made a controversial call on a goal in the World Cup final of England’s only World Cup victory was presented with a golden whistle by the Queen of England.
STATUS: True, if a Bit Misleading
Tofik Bakhramov is one of the most notable figures in Azerbaijan sports history. Originally a football player himself, injuries led him to a career in refereeing, ultimately becoming one of the most notable referees FIFA had.
His strong reputation led to him being a linesman under head referee Gottfried Dienst in the 1966 World Cup Final between England and West Germany.
Late in the match, with the score tied 2-2, Geoff Hurst of England had a shot on goal that bounced off of the crossbar sharply downwards and then bounced away from the goal back into the field. Dienst did not see the play well and hesitated at first, but when Bakhramov signaled goal, Dienst ultimately agreed.
England would score one more goal for the victory and the World Cup title.
Naturally, English people loved Bakhramov and Germans hated him. As Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union at the time, Bakhramov began known as the “Russian judge.”
In any event, over the years, the story goes that Queen Elizabeth II presented Bakhramov with a golden whistle in honor of “services performed for England.”
I can’t necessarily speak to the Queen’s motives, but it IS true that Bakhramov DID, indeed, get presented with a golden whistle. However, so did the rest of the crew. It was tradition at the time for the referee of the final match to get a golden whistle. Queen Eilzabeth, however, gave the entire officiating crew golden whistles, which has continued as a tradition to this day.
Was the change in tradition a sort of “thank you” to Bakhramov for his call? It’s certainly possible, but either way, yes, Bakhramov did, indeed, receive a golden whistle from the Queen. His son still owns it today.
In Azerbaijan, they have a stadium NAMED after Bakhramov, Tofik Bakhramov Stadium, the only stadium named after a referee!
SOCCER/FOOTBALL LEGEND: A ban on outside photographs by a football club has led to some amusing ways around the ban by newspapers covering the visiting teams.
Southampton Football Club is a English football club that play in League One (the third highest football league in the English football system).
They are a popular team but they certainly did not make themselves popular around the rest of the League when they announced in August of 2010 that they would no longer allow anyone to take photographs of the game outside of their official photographers. If teams wished to air photographs of the game, they have to buy them directly from Southampton.
In the first game under this system, with Plymouth Argyle visiting, the Plymouth newspaper circumvented the ban by having a local historian draw CARTOONS of the match’s highlights!! Here’s one…
When Southampton’s choice for exclusive photo rights decided to turn down the “right” (due to bad publicity), people figured they would give up their plan. They have not. They have continued with their ban.
In early September, the Swindon Advertiser got around the ban in a game between Swindon Town and Southampton (which Swindon won 3-0) by using Subbuteo playing pieces (Subbuteo are table top simulations of games such as football) to recreate the events of the match!
Here‘s the Swindon Advertiser article on how they went about their plan.
As the ban continues into its second month, many people wonder exactly how long they can hold this out (especially as it doesn’t seem like a great way to make money, really).
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org