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Ukraine

Gabrielle van Doorn went to the Ukraine for a development consultancy visit.

Wednesday 27 June 2001

After a few hours sleep (I always seem to manage to be very hectic before departure!) I quickly pack and go to Schiphol, where I catch my plane to Kiev. My suitcase is a bit emptier than it was for my first visit in January 1999 - when I needed far more clothes to cope with their cold and icy winters!

When I arrive I see that Kiev has undergone a complete metamorphosis: the snow bound town sitting under the grey sky of my previous visit has turned into a green city (the greenest of Europe I read) lit by sunshine. What a difference, I hardly recognise it!

Winter in Kiev

 

Not only the natural surrounding has changed , but also the infrastructure. More supermarkets this time and also McDonalds has found its way to Ukraine...

But the biggest change of all that I notice is in the Ukrainian Hockey Federation office. The room is just as small, but now it is equipped with a computer, fax, printer and scanner, thanks to the kind assistance of FIH' s private sponsor Coen Teulings. The old typewriter has been abandoned and their connection with 'the world' has been made. This is really a big improvement, I have no problem in staying in touch regularly now that the UHF has email

New office equipment - alongside the old typewriter

 

I have my first Ukrainian dinner with Viktoriya Us, UHF s Secretary General and my contact person over the last 21/2 years in the kitchen of 'my' apartment for the next week. While we are having our conversation in German and are enjoying our 'Abendbrot' people outside are still involved in a barter of their own produced goods: vegetables, potatoes, fruit and flowers, all grown in their own small gardens, which people need in order to make ends meet.

We go through the program for next week - a program that covers the areas Kiev, Borispol, Vinnitsa and Sumy. Last time I was here we (UHF, Pavel Rosa and myself) drafted a development plan and only stayed in Kiev; this time we will evaluate the actions included in this plan and check on the developments in the different hockey centres. This time I will be able to really see what is going on and I am very much looking forward to that!

Thursday 28 June 2001

Today Ukraine celebrates its first constitution which was signed exactly 5 years ago. It is a national holiday, but not for Viktoriya, who spends not only her working hours, but also most of her free hours on hockey. Tomorrow the National Youth Tournament for girls will be finished and there is a lot to prepare.

In the afternoon I meet the president in a different role as he is normally seen: as a singer!

On a big stage in the centre of Kiev several performances are given - an interesting mixture of traditional and modern culture. The president sings Ukrainian songs in a traditional Ukrainian costume and even takes the microphone himself to do a solo!

Not only during this event, but also in my next day' s visit I discover that Ukrainians are very good at entertaining themselves (and me!) with cultural performances. Everybody takes part, either as performer or as the audience and everyone seems to be happy.

The President sings!

 

After 'the President on Stage' we (the president, his family, the interpreter and myself) drink tea in a Turkish place and the president and I talk about the development of hockey in Ukraine and the different regions and their needs. It is great to have a good translator: in centralised meetings like the Congress in Brussels you don' t get much further than 'how are you?'. Now, with the help of this intermediary I discover the great knowledge that hides behind the faces and the language that is so strange for me.

After this discussion, I become more and more interested to see the different hockey regions, which we will start with tomorrow!

Friday 29 June 2001

Today we visit our first hockey event: the final day of the youth tournament in Borispol. Six girls' teams have been playing for 6 days and today we will know which teams will make the final.

The hockey place, home of 'Kolos Borispol' really looks professional, with its stadium, the YotY posters and a well-equipped canteen to feed the players (as well as the spectators!).

I meet up with Tatiana Zhuk, the national women's coach, and discuss the items which will be taught during the upcoming FIH YotY coaching course in September. I also bring up the subject of mini hockey, which hasn't been developed yet in the Ukraine. The first step would be to change one of the several sports laws in order to work with the young children. If that could be organised the next challengepresents itself: the lack of equipment.

FIH and EHF have given continuous assistance in this area and are still doing so, but due to the absence of a hockey shop in Ukraine the problem seems to be accentuated.

If we want to expand the number of hockey players here (which is definitely possible), then we need to find a structural solution - maybe through a joint venture with hockey specialised shops in another country or maybe even by setting up a factory. We decide to address this in our meeting with NOC this Monday.

Before the final starts I speak with the coach of the best team (Sumy I), who meets Sumy II in this game. This honoured coach (highest coaching grade in the Ukraine), Svetlana Makaijeva, also coaches the Women U21 team, and still feels frustrated that they didn't participate in the Junior World Cup in Buenos Aires. The U21 team is very talented and they need to compete with foreign teams, but unfortunately the economical circumstances don't allow them to join these competitions.

With an average income of between 50 and 100 US$ per month it is difficult to spend 3 weeks in one of the most expensive cities in the world (Buenos Aires). The NOC and Sports Committee (who are also confronted with limited resources) offered 12.000 US$, but this was not enough to cover both flights and accommodation.

Svetlana explains the system of the sports schools to me, where children come to play sports after school 6 days a week.

I watch the first part of the final with Serge Bubka, Olympic pole vault champion.

This sporting legend fulfils several functions within IOC and NOC and is not only a great example for the Ukrainian youth, but also of influence in the Ukrainian sports arena.

I inform him about the hockey situation, the drive of UHF and its people, the quality of playing and coaching and the difficulties with pitches, equipment and travel.

He gets a good impression from the spirit of this well organised festival and will try to help us in future. Before leaving he needs of course to be in the girls' photo album - they all admire him!

 Bubka with Sumy girls

 

Sumy I is clearly older and stronger than the second team and they win easily. The UHF president Kovtun, Valeriy Dorofeev from the State Committee of Sports and I award the prizes. The winner takes it all , it seems, because the Sumy players, who were also in the final, make 3 out of 4 of the best drawings!

After the prize giving there is a special celebration: we make a toast to Vitali Lapizkiy, who has just received the highest coaching grade: 'Honourable Coach of Ukraine'. Well done to him!

Vitali Lapizkiy

 

Another YotY event has finished and everybody heads home after a successful tournament.

 

Saturday 30 June 2001

Today Viktoriya, her daughter Julia and I travel to Vinnitsa. It is a 3 hour drive from Kiev over good roads (this is not always the case!), surrounded by trees and people selling their potatoes, blackberries and shashlick on the sides.

Five kilometres before the city centre of Vinnitsa we got welcomed by 2 people who are very important for the development of sports in general and hockey in particular in this region: Fedir Novik (chief of the Sports Department) and Anatoliy Vorona (vice major). Someone else who is important for international relationships accompanies them: Aleksander Buravchenkov (interpreter).

They join us on our way into town. We drop our luggage at the hotel and walk to the building where the mayor of Vinnitsa, Mr. Konstyantyn Vakhovsky, welcomes us.

The city has an abundance of good sports people and teams and the local and regional government is very supportive to hockey. We talk about new facilities and the financial support the government is able to give. Later this afternoon we have a look at the park where these facilities could be built, but first we get introduced to the local culture.

We visit the Pirogov museum and the house where the founder of anaesthesia lived. After this interesting museum we visit Vinnitsa's auditorium, where a whole day of cultural performances are being held. Dance-, folklore-, music-, singing- and acting groups from all over the region appear one by one on stage - a nice mixture of high quality traditional and modern performances. The auditorium is packed with people - people who may have limited financial resources, but obviously preserve their rich cultural heritage.

The auditorium is located in the park, where the new facilities are planned. This park includes sports and recreational grounds, a forest and different cafés and restaurants.

In the middle of the park there is an unused soccer pitch with a kind of stadium around it, which is in a poor condition. A synthetic hockey pitch with new stadium could be built here. A place which could attract lots of spectators, who are now using the park only for a stroll or a dance at one of the plazas!

The spot for new facilities

 

Before we have dinner we visit a restaurant / nightclub in the park, where teams could have their drinks and food. We talk with the owner and then head back to the hotel.

The dinner is again very good, as well as the company. And not to forget the toasts - I think we had at least 15 'memorable moments' where the glass was raised and a few nice or important words were said!

Sunday 1 July 2001

Today the National Youth Competition for boys will start and is opened in the indoor gymnastics hall. The opening is taken seriously by everybody - each team marches into the hall, dressed in their club outfit and while they are queuing up next to each other, the president takes the microphone to open the event. Local girls in traditional dresses give the teams traditional 'bread and salt', which is a common thing to welcome guests from other parts of the country.

After the speeches and the raising of the National Flag the gymnastics/acrobatics team of this region, with Olympic Champions amongst them, takes over and gives a magnificent performance which is unbelievable (I still can't believe it). These things you normally only see on TV!

The stunning acrobatics

Next to the flag is a big painting of the Year of the Youth poster - a local artist has put his energy into this piece of art! The painting and the participants leave now for the pitch, to start the games.

The 8 day tournament is played on the regupol pitch, a black rubber coverage, on which your receiving skills get very challenged!

Before we visit this tournament we have a meeting at Fedir Noviks office. Many awards are decorating the room - most clubs don't have a place to keep these awards, so the Sports Department has become a sort hall of fame!

We have a talk with the Vinnitsa Club President Mr. Volodymyr Baretsky. We talk about his club, facilities and the option to grow members by including mini hockey and girls hockey (in this region only boys play).

We also meet up with Viktor Kostuykevych, the hockey professor of Ukraine. He, as coach and professor at Physical Education Institute, has written 2 books about hockey, to be used by the students.

Hall of Fame! (from left to right Fedir Novik, Volodymyr Baretsky and Viktor Kostuykevych)

 

As we arrive at the tournament it starts to rain, but this doesn' t seem to bother the participants - only maybe the small ball boys, who follow the ball while getting wetter and wetter! Both teams on the pitch are very driven. In comparison with natural or synthetic pitches the teams use more pushes than hits, due to the fast surface.

I talk with the captain of the National Men's team about high performance hockey and then it is time for borsch (the national soup!) and the return drive home.

Ball boys with the YotY painting

 

Within less then 24 hours we have got a good impression about the hockey in this surrounding and the support it gets - not only from the coaches, but also from the local and regional government. Bye bye Vinnitsa!

Monday 2 July 2001

Today we have a meeting with the Ukrainian NOC and the State Committee of Youth Policy, Sports and Tourism. Two people I recognize from 21/2 years ago, Mr. Gereschenko (General Secretary of NOC) and Yury Maslachkov (Vice President of NOC).

We start positively - with the achievements that have been booked over the last 2 years. Many events have been organized (especially for youth), coaching and umpiring courses were held, youth players have been provided with sticks and the office is now equipped with modern and effective computer equipment.

We also discuss the challenges. Lack of equipment is one of the constraints which keeps Ukraine from growing its members. Despite the assistance of FIH and EHF in providing sticks, there are still many young boys and girls who can t play because they don't have a stick. We discuss a more structural solution for this problem: a factory for hockey equipment in Ukraine. There is a factory for ice hockey sticks in Zacarpathy and Mr. Valerii Tsybukh, chairman of the State Committee of Youth Policy, Sports and Tourism will get in touch with the directors of this company to see if the production of a field hockey stick is a possibility.

To continuously work on improving the level of the game coaching courses need to be held.

This year a coaching course is planned for September and during this meeting NOC shows its co-operation by confirming the Olympic Solidarity assistance. Good news!

Another point of concern is the participation in the international arena. Working on youth is one thing, but achievements of the national team are also needed to further develop the game.

The women's team plays in the European A division; the men's team has been promoted to the B division, which is promising. Unfortunately the teams don't attend all tournaments, due to financial reasons, which causes huge frustration amongst players, coaches, administrators, but of course also to the tournament organisers. I explain that it is not good for Ukraine's image if they don't show up. This is honestly regretted by the gentleman on the other side of the table and they will try to assist in future. Financial assistance has actually been given in the case of Buenos Aires (U21 World Cup for Women), but US$12.000 is not enough to fly there and remain there for 3 weeks!

Around 14h30 Viktoriya and I drive to Sumy, northeast of Kiev. The first 150 kilometers go smoothly on the highway, but after that it is 200 kilometers on a bumpy one lane road. We drive through the granary of Europe (I remember this from one of my school geography books long time ago!) and arrive in Sumy around 19h00.

We have a meeting over dinner with Felix Ostrovski (vice president of Sumy Club and UHF), Svetlana Makaijeva (highest grade coach, Sumy Coach and U21 women's coach), Nikolay Schachorskoy (Chairman of Dynamo Sports, Sumy region), another foreign guest Viktor Hensel (Chairman of Hockey Club Koln in Germany and great supporter of hockey in Sumy), Angelika Podionova (interpreter), Viktoriya and myself. The food, the conversations and the language (Russian, Ukrainian, German and English) is very varied, and tonight it all seems to mix very well!

Tuesday 3 July 2001

Early this morning we meet up with a highly respected person in this region: Mr. Volodymyr Shcherban, Chairman of Sumy Regional State Administration. He arrives at the meeting under police guidance, a meeting with all the people of yesterday, plus the UHF president Vladlen Kovtun , who got up at 3 in the morning to join this meeting!

4th from left is Mr. Volodymyr Shcherban

 

 

Mr. Kovtun explains in 20 minutes the hockey situation, the development assistance from my /FIH side and the need of a new hockey pitch for Sumy. The governor is not negative about this proposal, but needs to concentrate on building a soccer stadium first (16 million dollars!). After that a biathlon facility needs to be created and then spring next year he promises to look at new facilities of hockey, if Sumy hockey can provide him with the right financial figures.

Replacement of the pitch is absolutely necessary, I discover when we visit the old regupol pitch. It is in a very bad state, full of ridges and holes and it is not only uncomfortable to play on, but also dangerous. Let' s hope that the governor keeps his words and rewards the best U21&U18 female players in the country!

The Pitch in Sumy

 

From the old hockey pitch to the currently build soccer stadium. Many labourers are working on this showpiece from Sumy. Strangely enough soccer is not really played at a high level in this region - why then such an investment (not only hockey people are asking themselves!)?

After lunch there is a press conference with around 15 journalists of the Sumy region. After an introduction from the UHF president, questions are fired at Viktoriya, Svetlana, Felix and myself. I don't understand what the others are saying, so I concentrate on making these points - even if the others already have: the high level of girls hockey here, the assistance from FIH side and Cologne club, the need for equipment and especially a new surface. Many girls leave for Borispol when they are turn 22-24, because there are better facilities. With a new pitch this wouldn't be necessary!

The journalists at the end of the press conference

Before we return to Kiev we look at one of the possible locations for a new hockey pitch plus stadium. It is close to the city centre, in a highly populated area. Felix Ostrovski (vice president of Sumy Club and UHF) dreams about 2 hockey and 2 tennis pitches here and a restaurant that conforms to the German Club model. He invites Viktoriya and myself to come back in December to look at the start of the building of these new facilities. Dream or Fact? we will see - hopefully the latter!

After a long drive back to Kiev we have our goodbye dinner at a restaurant in the centre of Kiev. The UHF president, the general secretary, the interpreter and myself discuss the near future planning and toast on a very well organised and effective visit.

Good night Kiev, dobre wetsjir UHF - we will keep in touch!



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