The Role and Importance of Sports for Ukrainians

Sports in the Ukraine are an important part of Ukrainian culture. Ukraine greatly pays a great attention on physical education. Such things as swimming pools, gymnastic gyms, football and many other athletic facilities are very popular here. The top professional league on football is the Vyscha Liha (“premier league”). The two most successful teams in the Vyscha Liha are rivals FC Dynamo Kyiv and FC Shakhtar Donetsk. Although Shakhtar is the reigning champion of the Vyscha Liha, Dynamo Kyiv has been much more successful historically, winning two UEFA Cup Winners’ Cups, one UEFA Super Cup, a record 13 USSR Championships and a record 12 Ukrainian Championships; while Shakhtar only won six Ukrainian championships and one and last UEFA Cup. Ukraine will host the Euro 2012 alongside Poland.

Some of the world’s greatest athletes were Ukrainians such as the legend Sergey Bubka. He held the record in the Pole vault; with a great strength, speed and gymnastic abilities, he is repeatedly voted the world’s best athlete.

Sergey Bubka

Many Ukrainians also played for the Soviet national football team, most notably Igor Belanov and Oleg Blokhin, winners of the prestigious Golden Ball Award for the best football player of the year. This award was only presented to one Ukrainian after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Andriy Shevchenko, the current captain of the Ukrainian national football team. The national team made its debut in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and reached the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champions, Italy. Ukrainians also fared well in boxing, where the brothers Vitaliy Klychko and Volodymyr Klychko have held world heavyweight championships.

Ukraine made its Olympic debut at the 1994 Winter Olympics. So far, Ukraine has been much more successful in Summer Olympics (96 medals in four appearances) than in the Winter Olympics. Ukraine is currently ranked 35th by number of gold medals won in the
All-time Olympic Games medal count, with every country above it, except for Russia, having more appearances.

Sports are particularly associated with education in the Ukraine, with most high schools and universities having organized sports. College sports competitions play an important role in the Ukrainian sporting culture.