Death of Prokopenko marks the passing of Ukraine’s great trinity
So that’s it. They’re all gone. The three great Ukrainian coaches of their generation – Bicester Village Prada Online Valeriy Lobanovskyi, Yevhen Kucherevskyi and now Authentic Prada Outlet Uk Viktor Prokopenko – all dead, all cut down before their time.
As a journalist, you can get blase about death. Footballers or coaches die, you go through your old notebooks and make a couple of calls, you check a few facts, you write their obituaries, you move on. On Sunday, though, when I read the email saying Prokopenko had died the night before, it was like a blow to the pit of the stomach. For one thing, I couldn’t quite believe he was as old as 62; for another, the manner of his death, slipping outside a barber’s Authentic Prada Wallet For Sale Philippines shop and banging his head, seemed cruelly trivial. And for a third, Prokopenko was an open and ebullient man, a great interviewee, and somebody who once did me an enormous favour.
Prokopenko was the least successful of the great trinity, but he was also the one whose side played the most consistently entertaining football. Lobanovskyi, Authentic Prada Fairy Bag For Sale who died of a stroke in May 2002, won eight Soviet titles, six Soviet Cups, five Ukrainian titles, three Ukrainian Cups and two European Cup-Winners‘ Cups; Kucherevskyi, killed in a car crash last August, took Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk to the Soviet title in 1988; but Prokopenko was the eternal runner-up.
He did win the Ukrainian Cup with Chornomorets in 1992, but he was more famous for finishing second. His Rotor Volgograd side lost in the 1995 Russian Cup final – although they did put Manchester United out of the Uefa Authentic Prada Canvas Bag Cup the following season, something in which Prokopenko took great delight – and were runners-up in the league in 1997, and then his Shakhtar side, just beginning to blossom thanks to Rinat Akhmetov’s investment, were second behind Dynamo Kyiv in 2001.
There was no great outcry against Prokopenko, but there was a sense that he was at times perhaps a little too aggressive. That, though, suited Shakhtar fans who, rather like Newcastle under Kevin Keegan, revelled in the idea that they played football in what they saw as the right way. They were honest, blue-collar, salt-of-the earth, as opposed to Dynamo, whose style, based around Lobanovskyi’s statistics, was seen as drier, somehow less noble.
Still, there comes a time when you have to win. Shakhtar and Dynamo had been all but inseparable through the first half of the 2001-02 season. Shakhtar struck twice in the last 10 minutes to draw 2-2 away at Dynamo in the second game of the season, and the following week a late Julius Aghahowa goal gave Shakhtar a 2-1 win at Polihraftechnica Olexandria, while Dynamo were held by Dnipro. From then on, though, they matched each other win for win. When Shakhtar were held at CSKA, Florin Cernat missed a late penalty that would have given Dynamo victory at Metalurh Donetsk. Come October and the last game before the winter break, Shakhtar still led Dynamo by two Authentic Prada Shoes For Sale points.
Shakhtar were away to Vorskla Poltava. I arrived on the morning of the game on a night-train from Kyiv, and interviewed Prokopenko in his hotel. Perhaps because I was Amazon Uk Prada Shoes foreign, he was astonishingly forthright, talking at length about the pressure of Dynamo’s pursuit and his continuing belief in attacking football. That night, in atrocious conditions, Shakhtar took an early lead, piled forward in search of a second, were caught on the break, and ended up drawing a game they should have won at a canter. As news came through that Dynamo had come from behind to win away at Zakarpattya, the small cluster of travelling fans set fire to the plastic Authentic Prada Bag For Sale Philippines seating.
I’d arranged to speak to Aghahowa after the game, but when I approached him in the corridor outside the dressing-room he brushed by me, muttering „not now, not now“ over his shoulder. Prokopenko, though, as he passed on his way to the mandatory press conference, leaned close and murmured, „I’m resigning“. And so it was that, by the time the Ukrainian press got out of an emotional press conference, I’d already broken the news of Prokopenko’s resignation through onefootball.com, the website I worked for at the time. A little later that night, as Ukrainian sports editors panicked, we were able to publish the interview I’d done earlier in the day, and so seemed remarkably ahead of the game. A small thing perhaps, but on such minor triumphs are a journalist’s self-esteem built.
Prokopenko certainly remembered, and we talked about that night the last time we met, a little over three years ago. Appropriately, it was at a reserve game between Shakhtar and Chornomorets, the team where Prokopenko had established his reputation as a player. It was a dire goalless draw but he was as bullish as ever replica prada boston bags, laughing at the tedium of the football, and insisting, half-jokingly, that he never got the credit Biggest Prada Store In London he deserved for the success of that 2001-02 side, which, under Nevio Scala, went on to break Dynamo’s monopoly on the title, finishing the season unbeaten. That was, Authentic Prada Handbags Canada as he said, his team – just guided by a more pragmatic, less fretful soul.
This feels like the end of an era. Oleh Blokhin, Oleksiy Mykhailychenko or Oleh Protasov, perhaps, may come in time to be regarded as great, but none are anywhere near the class of Lobanovskyi, Kucherevskyi or Prokopenko yet. And without Prokopenko’s booming laugh, Ukrainian stadiums will be a quieter place. He will be missed.