Truths and lies about the "game of death"

death match

It is perhaps the most famous football story about the resistance against Nazis. The legendary team IK Start which started from a bakery in Kiev, won the team of Luftwaffe, while refusing to salute like Nazis at the start of the match. This event got mythic proportions, since it was a solid blow to the conquerors.

Called as the "game of death", which dates back to August 9, 1942, has been impressed with many variations. After the Second World War, the "Official" version of the story became a touchstone for the Communists. This version says that Luftwaffe called the Ukrainian team for a match, lost, and their harsh response was the execution of all players after the game. On the other hand, there were different claims. Some said that the Ukrainians were collaborators of Germans, and there were some people who argued that the game never happened! The son of a team player, Michael Poutistin, stated after many years that "I have not seen such a hard game. Definitely is was intense. There were some legendary players who accepted kicks with intention, but I did not see it. If you take a look at the photo after the match, everybody looks good."

The Ukrainian poster about the "revanche" match
The Ukrainian poster about the "revanche" match

In Andy Dugan's book "Dynamo: Defending the honor of Kiev", exists the most real possible scenario. One aspect which takes in the book "Journey to football in Eastern Europe" by the English writer Jonathan Wilson, who among other things has written an excellent book on the history of regular "inverting the pyramid."

So according to this, some players of Dynamo Kyiv and some of Lokomotiv on that season were working in the same bakery, forming the IK Start team, with which they took part in the new League of Kiev in 1942. They won every game and among other things, prevailing groups of Hungarian and Romanian guards, which executed orders by the Nazis. The consecutive wins were awesome moral support for the afflicted people of Ukrainian capital and thus the occupiers decided to play a match against IK Start.

Flakelf, the elite group of Luftwaffe, called Ukrainians in a football game. IK Start crashed them with a 5-0 score. In the rematch, at FC Zenit's stadium, the referee was connected with SS, and allowed Nazis to play a very tough and dangerous game. IK Start won again 5-3. The ultimate humiliation of Nazis seemed especially on a moment with the young defensive Oleksi Klimenko. He passed the goalkeeper of Flakelf, came up to the goal line and stopped there. Rather than push the ball into the net, he kicked it in the middle of the stadium, showing in this way that his team ... make fun with the opponent!

The only thing for sure, whatever the version of the story one believes, is that Germans did not let it pass. Gradually, all 11 players went through questioning. Mykola Korotkykh, who had served in the NKVD (predecessor of the KGB), died after twenty days of torture. The others were sent to concentration camps in Siret, next to Babi Yar, the ravine in Kiev, where ten thousands of Jews, Gypsies, Ukrainians and Soviet prisoners of Nazis were massacred. Because of their good physical condition, some players survived for about six months.

In retaliation, there was an attack on a German factory that was repairing motorized sleds. The commander of the camp, Paul Radomski, gave an order to execute three prisoners.

On the other hand, Vladlen Putistin, son of Michael, noted that the players who were arrested by the Nazis were nine, and divided into three groups, of which only one was executed.

The official version of the story, wants all players eventually executed. Outside the stadium of Dinamo Kiev, there is a statue depicting four players who took part in the legendary group and reminds everyone of the importance of this presence throughout the country. Whichever version of the story though is the real one, football gave the people great hopes and strengthened their resistance.

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