“We prepare professional footballers,” says Oleksandr Ischenko, a senior coach leading an age-group side of famous Ukrainian club Dynamo Kyiv in the ongoing under-17 Subroto Cup football tournament.
“Most of the guys are 1996-born. The oldest of them is 1997-born,” says Ischenko, giving a glimpse of the strong age-group structure at Dynamo’s Valeriy Lobanovsky Football Academy. Lobanovsky was the football manager who guided the club to become the first side from the USSR to win the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup in 1975.
The club, founded in 1927, is proud of its structured approach to groom footballers from the grassroots level. It has produced many well known professional footballers — Andriy Shevchenko being one of the most prominent names. This team includes four members from the National junior squad.
Dynamo’s structure provides a learning experience for the top Indian clubs.
“All the 16 top teams in Ukraine have junior teams. We have a multistage approach to football coaching. It starts from ‘B,’ ‘A’ before reaching the ‘Pro-A’ stage.
In our club, we have coaches for all departments of the game, like coaches for goalkeepers, strikers, defenders, physical training etc.,” said Ischenko.
The depth of coaching can be gauged from the fact that one of the coaches of the side, Serhii Bezhenar, is a former World junior champion for USSR.
The primary focus of the Dynamo academy is to teach football. Altogether 462 kids in various age groups train at the academy. “Fifty per cent of them are from Kyiv and rest are from other areas of the country. The kids from outside the city stay at the academy. They study in the school from morning till afternoon and train in the evening. If someone does well academically, he is allowed to go ahead,” said Ischenko.
In order to give the youngsters some quality foreign exposure, the club’s junior team takes part in around six events abroad in a year. Last year, it won a tournament organised in Kyiv to commemorate the liberation of the city during the World War II.
“Two Russian teams and two German sides played that event,” Ischenko points out.
After his boys got a hang of playing their first match in India against an Indian side, Amwi Jarain Secondary School, Jowai (Meghalaya), Ischenko was eager to come back again next year. The team, supported by the Spets Techno Export, loved its first outing at the Ambedkar Stadium even though the coach thought the ground was a little hard.
“We can come here again for a few days. India and Ukraine are good friends and it is a nice country,” said Ischenko.