Every year millions of soccer fans throughout Europe look forward to the European cups' final matches, which are always unpredictable and may easily bring unexpected results.
The 2008-2009 season's UEFA Cup final match, to be played today at Fenerbahçe Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium in İstanbul, will be no exception. For Ukrainian fans, it is very special because for the first time in history, one of their leading teams will play in the final of the most prestigious tournament under the aegis of UEFA.
For Ukraine, not just the final match itself but the whole 2008-2009 UEFA Cup tournament was unique and peculiar; many amazing things happened that were special by their very nature. Three teams entered the tournament: Dynamo Kyiv, Shakhtar Donetsk and Metalist Kharkiv. For the first time, two of Ukraine's teams (Dynamo and Shakhtar) reached a semifinal, and for the first time they would have to play against each other at that stage. In addition, for the first time, three Ukrainian teams achieved top positions during the tournament, causing two “Ukrainian team duels.” In the UEFA Cup 1/8 final, where the draw pitched our teams against each other, Dynamo Kyiv had already beaten Metalist and now the time had come to face Shakhtar from Donetsk. Those two are constant rivals in the local championships and worthy of each other.
For Turkey, this tournament was unique in its own way as well – because of Ukraine. Recalling the previous matches of the Ukrainian clubs in the current UEFA Cup, one sees that they stopped two Turkish teams, ironically from İstanbul, and inflicted a defeat on the third one; in particular, Fenerbahçe, who was defeated by Dynamo Kyiv in the group stage of the tournament in the UEFA Champions League Cup. In the sequel, it helped our team to occupy the third place in its group and brought about the possibility of taking part in the UEFA Cup. Besides, in the first round of this tournament, Metalist beat Beşiktaş, denying it further participation and eventually in the UEFA Cup group tournament, the team from Kharkiv beat Galatasaray. Those games were indeed hard to win since Turkish teams are strong, experienced and able to create problems for any rival.
It's also interesting to mention that only for the second and last time in the history of the UEFA Cup tournaments (it's already known that high-ranking UEFA authorities have made the decision to change the competition structure and name – the next one will be called the UEFA Europa League), teams from one and the same countries will play in the semifinals. This fact may also become an additional stimulus for the remaining participants who not only wish to win the prestigious UEFA trophy but also want to be the last to do it before the forthcoming changes take place.
Anyway, it has already been a memorable season for Ukrainian teams achieving a degree of success that is long overdue. Ukrainian clubs have been on a long journey to get there, over the course of our country's history. Knowing the aspirations of our clubs, it should have happened before. It is happening now. Over the last five years, Shakhtar and Dynamo in particular have been very professional in their training of young players. The youth development structures are organized at a very high level at both clubs, and in the near future they will bear even more fruit. It may mean more than the achievements of Ukrainian teams in the prestigious European tournament – that of real progress in improving the general level of the soccer infrastructure in Ukraine. That's especially important on the eve of Euro 2012, where our country will be one of the hosts.
So, a Ukrainian team is expected in Istanbul again, but in contrast to recent times its rival will not be a Turkish club but a German one. In connection with this, let us recall just a few facts. Dynamo Kyiv has vast experience in competing against German teams in the international arena. In particular, on its way to the European Cup (1975 European Super Cup Winners’, 1975 and 1986 European Cup Winners Cup) it more than once won victories over titular clubs from Germany (Eintracht Frankfurt, Bavarian sides, etc.). In spite of the fact that Shakhtar Donetsk hasn't won the European Cup yet, it has recently developed into a top-level European team due to the highly skilled coaching staff and experienced players who now demonstrate a praiseworthy game second to none.
One can't only take into account the sport side of this long-expected event. It's clearly obvious that for the three countries (Ukraine, Germany and Turkey) now directly involved with today's final, soccer is more than just a sport. It is adored by the public and press, and attracts attention and tourists. This atmosphere helps not just to improve mutual understanding between nations but to strengthen their cultural and historic traditions as well.
Following this train of thought, it's worth mentioning that it's very symbolic for Ukraine to take part in such a high-level match being held in İstanbul. Not many people know that the appearance of Ukrainian soccer teams in the international arena began with a match between Fenerbahçe and one of the local Ukrainian teams held in Odessa in 1914. With this connection, we sincerely believe that Turkish soil will be favorable for Ukraine and that the beginning which once was given by a Turkish team will be successfully continued for one of our clubs in İstanbul today.