For about an hour on Wednesday evening, a bunch of 15-year-old boys took to the field at the capital’s Ambedkar Stadium. Apart from a smattering of people preparing the ground for the under-17 girls’ final of the 53rd Subroto Cup, to be held on Thursday morning, there was no one in the stands — a real pity, given the work ethic of the teenagers. A mere mention of the team’s name, though, and the rigorous regimen, three days before they kick off their campaign, ceases to be a surprise.
Their methodical training just reinforced the belief that the youth team of FC Dynamo Kiev, the two-time UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup champions, that has been home to Andriy Shevchenko and Oleg Blokhin among others, are the team to beat in the under-17 boys’ category. Playing late-afternoon matches in the September heat of the Indian capital, though, can prove to be exhausting for players not used to temperatures exceeding 25 degrees in the summer. Head coach Oleksandr Ishchenko, however, disagrees.
“Football is played in every climate, so it’s not a problem — we just want to go out there and win.”
For a tournament used to hosting teams from Asia, this year has been a significant step-up — for the first time, there is participation from outside the continent. But if bringing over the youth team of FC Dynamo Kiev, in the same calendar year as the protests by feminist activists outside the Indian embassy in the Ukrainian capital, is not a coup of sorts, nothing is. Due credit, says Ishchenko, must be given to India’s diplomats in Kiev, especially the air attache to the Indian embassy.
Now all that remains to be done is hope that the presence of one of Europe’s finest can pull in the crowds. “This is our club’s first visit to India,” says Ishchenko, chief trainer of the Ukraine team that finished runners-up in the 2006 UEFA Under-21 Championship. “We hope the fans will like what we have on offer.”