With the much-awaited return of Thursday night football this week, it’s time to take a look at our first opponents, FC Vorskla of the Ukraine.
Based in the city of Poltava, FC Vorskla were born out of the ashes of a former Soviet trade union sports society, called Kolos. Going through a number of name changes and bankruptcy, the club re-emerged in 1986 in the Soviet third division before joining the second tier of the new Ukrainian League in 1992.
Promoted to the Ukrainian Premier League in 1996, they have remained there ever since. On the European stage, the club played twice in the old Uefa Cup before various assaults on the Europa League, the highlight being group stage participation 2011/12. Of course that highlight has been superseded by the ultimate in FC Vorskla’s history, when drawn to play the mighty Arsenal FC in this season’s Europa League group stage.
The club play at the Oleksiy Butovskyi Vorskla Stadium which was named after a famous Poltava dignitary from a cossack family who was instrumental in the founding of the International Olympic Committee.
Vociferous rivalries amongst various Ukrainian club supporters have largely been put to one side due to the fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Fans of Vorskla Poltava are fierce patriots of the Ukraine and many are said to have taken part in the Ukrainian revolution of 2014.
On 26 July 2014, the club’s president and active local politician, Oleh Babayev was shot dead. Police opened a criminal case under Article “premeditated murder” but it appears the perpetrator was never found in the familiar fashion of disputes between Ukrainian and pro-Russian factions in the region.
Local Food – Borshch, Varenyky (stuffed dumplings) and Banosh with Brynza (corn flour cooked in sour cream with sheep’s cheese and crunchy pork fat) are examples of local cuisine along with Holodets – “This strange dish shocks tourists. But, for Ukrainians, it is the central dish served at all celebrations. Holodets is made of meat broth, frozen to a jelly-like state, with pieces of meat inside. One of the main components for this kind of aspic is pork leg. To be more specific, the lowest part, the one that ends with hoofs. During the process of cooking, the smell spreads all over the apartment. But the result is so satisfying that it is worth it.”
While I’m sure local Ukrainian food is delicious, I’d imagine Arsenal will be taking their own chef! (as most clubs seem to after the spuds’ experience of Lasagnegate 🙂 )