Ukraine: Ticket Touts and Technological Breakdowns, Part One

Euro Diary continues with Part one of David Goulden’s adventure to Ukraine to see Sligo Rovers take on Vorskla Poltava in the Europa League third qualifying round first leg.

It’s four days since I’ve returned from Ukraine after Sligo Rovers’ scoreless draw with Ukrainian Premier Division side Vorskla Poltava, and my body still hasn’t recovered. High temperatures along with several hours of travelling and the lack of sleep takes its toll on someone who loves waking up in the morning and seeing grey skies instead of 30 degree heat at 8am. Couple my “first world problems” with our travelling parties lack of Russian and you have what we call in Sligo: “Craic”.

We started off our journey early Monday afternoon, taking the Dooley Express to Dublin Airport. Before we left, The Sligo Champion insisted on taking a photo of us in front of the bus just inside the gates of The Showgrounds for that Wednesday’s paper. We of course had to oblige, so along with a pink string vest one of the lads had acquired, we posed in front of the bus. At about 1.30 we headed off stopping along the way as we usually do to any game in Dublin at Ballinallack for supplies. At about 4.30, we arrived at Dublin Airport’s car park and after some deliberating, the driver eventually decided to park in what was most likely a larger bus companies parking spot. Oh well.

Our flight was due to take off at 7.35pm. So as us Irish usually do while waiting for anything, we went off to the bar. Shamrock Rovers faced FC Kobenhavn the day after in Denmark and as we expected there were a few Hoops hanging about. One approached us asking if one of our party was about, so we all braced ourselves for a fight with the Shams lads but it turned out this particular lad had made ‘football friends’ with one of the younger Rovers (Sligo) fans on our flight before a previous game.

At journey’s end we had travelled 9 hours by plane and 13 hours by bus, but by the far the most frustrating part of the journey was when we landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport for a 9 hour stayover from 10pm to 7am. Some of the older lads in the crew (by the time you hit 27, you’re an aul lad apparently) booked a hotel room for the night to rest their weary bones. For the rest of us, we decided that 9 hours wouldn’t be enough time to bother with sleep or any comfort. Instead, we went to the city to gawk at the Eiffel Tower and be constantly pestered by local salesmen trying to sell lasers and magic flying “things”. One of our party, now known as “You..eye-land boy”, even managed to haggle one of these men down from €45 to €15 for a pretty decent laserpen, although “eye-land boy” would only go as high as €14. Deal not done.

The last time I visited Paris, about 10 years ago, it bored the arse off me. This time was no different and to make it worse  it was the middle of the bloody night. Only the Eiffel Tower lighting up for 5 minutes every hour slightly eased the tedium, but after buying the strangest tasting paninis (I still maintain mine had bananas in it) from the side of the road, we decided to skirt back to Charles de Gaulle. The journey takes about a half hour, so it cost about €20 both ways per person and it felt as if we were paying someone to pass the time.

So only 7 hours left till we took off for Kiev and while some of us tried to sleep, the majority found their kicks in pushing each other around the terminal on baggage trollies and watching a Chinese man drive up and down in straight lines on a golf-buggy-like contraption. Apart from this, the night was spent talking in high volumes, about a rather tall man who had taken a seat opposite us who took an uncanny resemblance to the butler in The Adams Family. I’m not sure if it was sleep deprivation or just pure boredom, but as he stood up to leave the area he began to speak perfect English into his phone. Woops.

Fast forward to our arrival at Kiev and our first steps outside the door. HOT.

That’s about it for Kiev at day time, heat, heat and more heat. A lack of food and sleep did not make it any easier too, so there were considerable smiles on our faces when we met our beds that afternoon. After a short lie down, we decided to venture into Kiev and meet up with other Rovers fans who had travelled separately to us. We met another fan from Sligo Town who had arrived in Kiev the previous day and was able to advise us where to go for cheaper/better food.

It was when we sat down for food that I noticed a handful of young boys walking past us with blue and white scarves. It took me while to cop to the fact we were in Kiev and the local team Dynamo Kiev were playing that night against Ruben Kazan in a Champions League qualifier. After some pints, shots and cocktails we tried our hands at coaxing information out of our barmen as to where the game was taking place. So we staggered along to the game, sleep deprovated and slightly intoxicated.

Our view at Lobanovsky

We arrived at the Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium to signs of “продано” (Sold Out), but we managed to get seven tickets for €15 (150 Hryvnia) each. The dodgy looking tout seemed to have a good laugh at us for paying over twice the going rate, but we also had a laugh back as we’d paid close to nothing for a Champions league game. As we watched the game, the discussion turned to the game two days later South West of the city in Poltava. We noted that if our opponents were used to playing teams at the standard of this physical and pacey Dynamo side, then we could be in for a tough night.

After the game, we were treated to a magnificent lightning storm while we sampled more Ukrainian beer. Some of our group ventured downtown to the ladies while the more boring (including myself) retired to our beds. The next day, to stories of the nights previous (I’ve sworn to keep quiet) we spent the day searching out the city, which to us was walking approximately three streets away. We settled in The Arena Bar, a very much tourist orientated place with tourist orientated prices in a large shopping centre. Here, we met up with yet more Rovers fans who had just arrived in Kiev before four of us decided to leave to find the authentic Kiev.

And we found it in a strip club, obviously.

Not much can be said about that part of the holiday but an employee in that establishment was more than happy to go about her job with a Sligo Rovers jersey on. Even more special was the name on the back and to our further delight, the shirt of course, came off.

The shirt in question

Many thanks to David Goulden for this piece, Part Two will be published within the coming days.

Follow David on twitter @DavidGSligo


25 Comments on “Ukraine: Ticket Touts and Technological Breakdowns, Part One”

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