When we think about the toughest leagues in the world to play in, undoubtedly the Ukrainian and Russian leagues make the top ten. Not only are the teams tough but the weather conditions, playing surfaces and hostile crowds mean that attending these games are not for the faint hearted. The Ukrainian Premier League in particular is a harrowing league, so much so that until the 2002 season, very few foreign players wanted to play there. But that has all changed after the influx of money into the league, with clubs like Shakhtar Donetsk benefitting the most. After inheriting the club from its former chairman Akhat Bragin in 1996, following his assassination, billionaire Rinat Akhmetov has slowly pumped life back into the club formed in 1939 out of the city built by John Hughes, a Welsh engineer during the 1870’s. He has invested wisely in youth development and player transfers bringing in a host of skillful Brazilians over the years in an attempt to wrestle the title out of Dynamo Kyiv’s hands. They have been successful in doing so, winning the title the last four years running and picking up the UEFA Cup in 2009, the first Ukrainian club to do so. But it has not been easy for the team as the Brazilians in their squad have found out. In each game, skill is pushed aside to brute force, hard bone crunching challenges and unsportsmanlike conduct that is regularly ignored by the leagues referees. These incidents usually go unpunished with only extreme cases being dealt with.
One such recent example of when the referee had to act was during the Ukrainian Cup match between Tavriya Simferopol and Vorskla Poltava last Wednesday night. At the end of game, which had finished in 3-2 victory for Tavriya, both set of players were exchanging pleasantries when Vorskla midfielder Artem Hromov faced up to Tavriya goalkeeper Serhiy Pohorilyi about a in-game incident. Taking offence to the manner of his approach, Pohorilyi pushed the player back before punching him in the face with a quick left hook. His actions led to an automatic dismissal from the referee, Vitaly Romanov who had been standing only yards away and witnessed the event. Ukrainian goalkeeper Serhiy Pohorilyi, who started is career as part of the famous Dynamo Kyiv youth system, will now miss the next round of the cup, much to the frustration of Tavriya manager and former Arsenal defender, Oleg Luzhny.
The player was quick to come out with a public apology after the game, in a desperate attempt to calm his manager down:
“I sincerely regret that I did not keep my emotions in the incident which happened between me and the player,” Vorskla “Artem Gromov. I apologize to the football community and especially FC “Vorskla”. – (Translated from Ukrainian so errors may have occurred)
To see the punch, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksgEX_EKpFM&feature=g-sports