This is a tragical story about footballers of Ukraine's Dinamo Kiev FC who died in the Nazi concentration camp.

In 1942 during the World War II, the German army steamrolled across Europe. War was waged on many fronts. France, Britain and several other countries were all close to falling to German rule. But Hitler wanted to prove he was the greatest military general of all time, so he focused attentions towards the east.As the Nazi forces swept through Eastern Europe on their conquest they eventually came to the Ukraine. Wehrmacht forces crushed any resistance, while the Luftwaffe destroyed from above. The Germans rolled into the city of Kiev with little resistance.

 

FC Start

It was at Kiev's Bakery Number 3 that the players eventually gathered to look for work in occupied Kiev. It all started when Nikolai Trusevich, Dynamo's goalkeeper returned to the city. Trusevich, was given a job as a sweeper in the bakery by Iosif Kordik, a Dynamo fan. Kordik was the bakery's new manager, who held his privileged position there because of his German origins. Kordik, a sports enthusiast, then hit on the idea of setting up a bakery football team and, in the spring of 1942, Trusevich began a search over Kiev, looking for former team mates. His first find was the tricky winger Makar Goncharenko.

Over the next few weeks, players from Dynamo as well as from the former Lokomotiv Kiev and CDKA teams, completed a club they called FC Start (Football Club Start). On June 7th 1942, FC Start played its first game in the local league. The league was run by a Quisling Georgi Shvetsov, a former footballer and sports instructor and Start's first opponents were Rukh, Shvetsov's pet team. FC Start won 7-2, despite being poorly fed and equipped.

FC Start then played several matches with teams of soldiers of occupying garrisons, and won them all:

June 21 Hungarian garrison 6:2 

July 5 Romanian garrison 11:0 

July 12 Military railroad workers team 9:1 

July 17 PGS (Germany) 6:0 

July 19 MSG.Wal (Hungary) 5:1 

July 21 MSG.Wal (Hungary) 3:2 

August 6 Flakelf (Germany) 5:1 

German administration grew aware that FC Start victories might inspire Ukrainian inhabitants and decrease the morale of Axis troops.The German team 'Flakelf' asked for a re-match, which was planned on August 9 at Zenit stadium. An SS officer was appointed as referee, and FC Start were aware he would be biased against them. Some visitors anonymously warned of possible punishment they did not give the game up to the Germans. Despite this, the team decided to play as always. Also before the match, a man dressed in SS uniform entered Start’s locker room with a precise and famous message. In few words, much was communicated: “ ‘I am the referee of today’s game. I know you are a very good team. Please follow all the rules, do not break any of the rules, and before the game greet your opponents in our fashion’” 9. His point was clear: their referee was an SS officer, they were expected to salute and “Heil Hitler” before the match, and they were expected- not by skill, but by sense- to lose.

 

 

The Match

The players decided, despite all logic, that to throw the game was a disgrace to soccer and to Kiev. Once they had come to that decision, they performed wholeheartedly. In response to Flakelf’s “Heil Hitler!” FC Start, pretending to reciprocate, began to raise their arms only to pound them to their chests and yell “FizcultHura!” the Soviet sporting salute and the antithesis of the referee’s request. Having done so, Start understood the referee would not call anything against the Germans. Additionally, Flakelf was not simultaneously working 24-hour days, nor were they malnourished, nor weak. It was an unfair match up from whistle to whistle. German aggression was manifest and steadfast; some claim they knocked Trusevich unconscious for several minutes, a considerable advantage as they scored on him a few minutes later. It wasn’t until Kuzmenko scored a goal from a hefty thirty yards out (thanks be to his training ball three times regulation weight) that the game showed any signs of equalizing. From then on, Start’s technical superiority could not be dismantled with aggression and unfairness. Going into the half they were leading 3-1 . In the tense limbo between halves, various visitors to the FC Start locker room (including an SS Officer) warned them of the consequencs of winning. However,  the second half unfolded to two more goals on each side when the referee blew the whistle before the 90 minutes had lapsed: 5-3. The possibility for Flakelf to lose by more than two was inconceivable and the discomfort tangible. They players shook hands and left the field

 

The Aftermath

One week later, the players were one by one summoned to Kordik’s office, where a Gestapo officer awaited them. Never returning to Bakery No. 3, they were taken to Gestapo headquarters in Korolenko Street. Despite being placed in different cells, they could still communicate via expressions and glances. Torturous interrogations followed in German hopes of the players’ concession as thieves or saboteurs. Not one gave in. Nikolai Korotkykh, the Start forward, was devastatingly given away by his sister as a former NKVD officer and was tortured to death by the Gestapo. The rest of the team was sent to Siretz, a death camp feigned as labor camp, two days after Korotkykh’s death. It was a death sentence, and ultimately resulted in the infamous term Death Match, of which nearly every Ukrainian is aware. On February 24th, 1943, it was decided that every third prisoner was to be shot at Siretz. This fate befell Kuzmenko, Klimenko and the fatherly Trusevich, who died in his goalie jersey. Goncharenko and Sviridovsky escaped. The fates of the others are unknown and the rest is, as they say, history.

 

The story became widely popular in the Soviet Union, especially in Ukraine, and was romanticized. Two movies - "Third Time" (Mosfilm, 1964) and "The Match of Death" were filmed, based on this true story. A sculpture composition was erected in Kiev in Zenit stadium, which was renamed to Start stadium (Kiev) in 1981. A statue dedicated to the Kiev team of 1942 stands in Kiev today.