In their existence, Dynamo Kyiv have flirted between two stadiums, the Lobanovskiy and the Olympic. Historically, bigger matches were played at the Olympic Stadium, while club matches took place at the now Lobanovskiy (it’s gone through several name changes). However, as that stadium found itself wanting for capacity during the ‘glory years’ of Dynamo, by the 90s they were playing their football at the old Olympic Stadium, with its capacity of around 100,000. Their former stadium, built in 1934, found itself used mainly as their training ground.
2 Stadiums, 1 Dynamo
A FIFA-guideline reduction in the late 90s brought the capacity of the Olympic down to a little over 80,000, but Dynamo attendances were by then in decline, with the club not usually attracting more than 10,000 fans a match. Playing in such a cavernous arena was proving slightly morale-sapping from the football side, plus impractical from the other side of business. Thus, a move to the Dynamo Stadium (as it was called then) took place in the early part of the new century.
The Lobanovskiy had by then been modernised, its attendance down from the original 23,000 to near 17,000 all-seated. But, a combination of Dynamo not having matches of a stature to warrant a switch to the Olympic, plus that stadium’s development for EURO 2012, meant that for a decade, the Lobanovskiy was home.
Then, in the spring of this year, it was announced a 5-year contract had been signed, and Dynamo were to return to play at the Olympic Stadium. And so it was, in early March, Sheva and his boys said farewell to the spectacular Dnipro views and Mariinskiy Park location, and headed across town.
In their first game, against Arsenal Kyiv, an attendance of over 50,000 surprised many given that crowds could be as low as a few thousand at the Lobanovskiy. That new-stadium sparkle continued until the end of the season, as their former stadium was used by Arsenal Kyiv. The plan is to develop the Lobanovskiy into a home befitting a major 21st century European football club, in the five years the Dynamo boys are over at the Olympic. Some have reservations they will ever return. In any case, we caught up with a couple of hardcore fans of the boys in white (and on occasion blue), and asked them their views on the place which used to be home.
Following Dynamo Kyiv after having moved to their new (leased) stadium, NSC Olimpiyskiy, fans of Dynamo beat the record of attendance for the second time in a row. Sixty-eight thousand, fourteen people came out to the game between Dynamo and Dnipro –the fourth best attendance in Europe for that weekend!
The former Dynamo Stadium, named after legendary coach Valeriy Lobanovskiy, can’t fit one quarter of 68,014 people, and has been sent into history at least for the next five years. As always, it is a little sad in such moments. For me personally, this stadium was very special as it was a true home for the fans – here Dynamo played their home games in Ukrainian Championship and qualifying matches for European Cups, while the Olympic was for international games. Only here, could fans unable to get tickets for the stadium, see the game from the slopes of the park. I do not know even where the view was better, stadium or park! I remember the first time I came to the stadium, we lost our tickets (true), and I had to climb over the fences and watch the game from those same slopes. In terms of location, the stadium does not have any competitors, at least in Ukraine: the heart of city centre, historic park, Dnipro River, Mariinskiy Palace. When you drove on the left bank of Kyiv, you could even see when a game was taking place.
The stadium was cosy in everything – distance from the field to the seats is only 10-15 metres. Many times fans called out to their beloved players. I remember a time Andriy Shevchenko waved his hand to fans during a game, showing that he appreciated them and that everything would be okay!
Many people complained about the security at the stadium, as the sectors are too close to each other and people could move freely from one sector to another. But in the most important games, it helped to stay together and support Dynamo even more. One of my most vivid memories is the match between Dynamo Kyiv and PSG, which we won 3-0. By “we”, I mean the team and a full stadium of fans.
The colonnade at the entrance to the stadium makes it even more majestic. You have this feeling right after entering the territory of FC Dynamo Kyiv that you are on sacred ground. The grand monument to Lobanovskiy only reinforces this. After you enter the stadium itself, this feeling always gave way to one of comfort, there is so much greenery and inviting spaces.
No doubt the Olympic Stadium is hugely superior technically, and a big step forward for the team. But we should not forget our history. And we should not forget our previous stadium – it’s still a fantastic place for a stroll and some fond reminiscence.
New pitch, modern seats, and a covering roof protecting one from the elements – indeed, the Olympic Stadium is perfect for watching football. But what will happen to the previous home of my lovely team?
When I think about the former Dynamo Stadium, I often have flashbacks connected to the ‘beautiful old days’. It’s like a nice nostalgic black-and-white movie for me. Too many moments of my life, happy and not so, are connected with this place. I even remember the first day I was there as a little boy who held his father’s hand tightly, and looked around with eyes full of excitement and wonder. Sometimes I think that I could get to the Lobanovskiy blindfolded from anywhere
It’s match day. A crowded square near Maidan, beautiful chestnut trees all around, happy people in white-blue colours everywhere. I move through the entrance colonnade, passing the eternal football paraphernalia sellers. I take several steps forward and stop in front of the gorgeous statue of Valeriy Lobanovskiy, keenly sitting on the bench. Several minutes pass in silence in respect to the greatest Ukrainian coach ever, and I move on further to the stairs. Here I can truly feel the spirit of the big game, where thousands of spectators connect their hearts and feelings together in an unstoppable desire to win the match. It’s absolutely intoxicating, and I try to join all of them as quickly as possible.
The match begins. Hundreds of throats sing synchronously our traditional songs, sharing the blue-white brotherhood spirit with every fellow fan. Marvellous hills all around create magic acoustics, which allow our chants to soar into the sky above. The pitch is so close that you feel total unity with the players. Trees everywhere make the air fresh and pure, and if you feel the touch of a spring raindrop, it’s like nature coming right down to touch your skin. Does one really need a roof, when you can kiss your lovely girl after the match on the Love Bridge, one of the most romantic places in Kyiv, and just 50 steps from the stadium?
Sincerely, I’ve always loved Dynamo Stadium. Yes, here you can’t buy hot dogs, or watch replays on the numerous TV-sets near the facilities. Yes, perhaps you can even say that the Lobanovskiy is too small and old-fashioned for such a great club. But it has a unique atmosphere and a special Dynamo spirit, which can only be felt here. It’s like dear home for all the white-blue fans. For many years, this stadium brought us colourful emotions and millions of magic moments. I hope that someday Dynamo will come back and stay forever.
The Lobanovskiy Stadium
* Before the revolution, the area between Khreshchatyk and Petrovskiy Alley used to house royal greenhouses, exotic fruit and vegetables from which went to receptions at the Mariinskiy Palace
* After 1917, the greenhouses were removed and playgrounds, a football field, basketball, volleyball and handball courts were constructed
* A decision was made to erect a more organised sporting arena for the Dynamo football club, and in 1934, a modern sports facility could be found, with a seating capacity of 23,000. It was called Dynamo Stadium
* Between 1934 – 1940, Dynamo played in the newly formed Soviet Championship league, bringing home a second and third place finish
* All play stopped in 1941 when the stadium was virtually destroyed in WWII
* 1942 highlights one of Ukraine’s most historic football stories, The Death Match, which has inspired international filmmakers
* The stadium remain in a dilapidated condition until 1956 when it was rebuilt
* The stadium was substantially transformed in the late 70s. Four light towers were installed, as was an electronic scoreboard. Unfortunately, so was seating capacity, which was brought back to 17,000
* A monument to the Dynamo players involved in The Death Match was constructed in 1971 and is set near the service entrance to the stadium
* Reconstruction was initiated again in 1993 and bleachers were replaced with plastic chairs
* Once called Dynamo Stadium, it was renamed in 2002 in honour of the former Dynamo Kyiv and USSR National Football Team coach, Valeriy Lobanovskiy who died on 13 May of that year
* A monument to Lobanovskiy was opened in 2003 in honour of the late coach, and has him sitting on the trainer’s bench watching a match