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Euro 2012: Ukraine – the secrets behind the players

June 6, 2012

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Which player bought his driving licence rather than passing the test and whose wife is a former karate champion? Find out here

This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2012 Experts’ Network, a co-operation between 16 of the best media organisations from the countries who have qualified for the finals in Poland and Ukraine. guardian.co.uk is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 8 June.

Taras Mykhalyk

Learned his football on the streets and played for a local team until being transferred to the now-defunct CSKA Kyiv, where he was earning US$100 a month. A few years ago a referee from the Volyn amateur championship claimed that Taras, now of Dynamo and Ukraine fame, punctured the tires of his car because “I sent him off five years ago”. Mykhalyk denies the claim and is very loyal to Volyn, preferring it as a holiday destination ahead of places such as Bali and Hawaii. Loves hunting and fishing.

Yaroslav Rakitskiy

Finished fourth in the goalscoring chart of the Ukrainian reserve league in 2008-09, scoring 11 goals (and only four from the penalty spot). What’s so amazing about that, you may ask? Well, he was playing at left-back.

Oleh Gusiev

Gusiev is now well-known for his utility and stamina, but he suffered a lot in his childhood. “I was constantly ill and the doctors told me not to play football.” But he persevered and is now a key player. He prefers not to play full-back but always plays with the right attitude, even when asked to play out of position.

Ruslan Rotan

His wife, Maria, is a former world and European prize-winner in karate. “She taught me some moves,” the Dnipro captain said with a laugh. His dad is a former Vorskla Poltava player. Now Rotan Sr is coaching an amateur team in Poltava called Nove Zhyttya (New Life), for whom Ruslan brothers, Petro and Oleksiy, play, as well as Oleksandr Melaschenko, the ex-Vorskla, Dynamo, Dnipro and Ukraine striker.

Artem Milevskiy

Born in Minsk and the subject of a huge tug-of-war between Belarus and Ukraine in 2003, Milevskiy opted to play for the latter despite having already represented the Belarus Under-16s. He is known for his high-profile lifestyle and once admitted that he bought his driving licence rather than passing the test. “What’s the big deal? Every other person in Ukraine did the same,” he said. Loves expensive cars.

Andriy Yarmolenko

The player learned to live with the early criticism for his performances but has now stopped going to football matches as a fan. “I read with a smile all the jokes about me on the internet and when I started to play better, there were fewer jokes. But once I went to the Dynamo stadium as a fan and during the match I heard so much abuse from some supporters that I no longer want to come to the stadium again – as a fan, that is”.

Igor Boyko, Aleksey Ivanov and Yuriy Shevchenko, write for football.ua and Football Style magazine

Click here to read the tactical analysis of Ukraine

Click here to read the profile of Andriy Yarmolenko Read More

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