Callum Seniuk –
Finding its history dating back to 1993, Arsenal Kyiv have had a history that can only be described as a rollercoaster ride. Starting as FC Nyva Myronivka and continuing as FC Arsenal-Kyiv Shchaslyve, the club has gone through name changes, splits and bankruptcy. Despite their steep road, Arsenal Kyiv currently find themselves with the prospect of being promoted to the Ukrainian Premier League. Commonly dwarfed by their city rivals, Dynamo Kyiv, Arsenal have the opportunity of reigniting the Kyiv Derby. With football and their differing politics involved, Arsenal Kyiv are looking to come back with a bang.
Claiming to date back to the creation of a multi-sports club from the Arsenal Factory in 1925, the organisation now known as Arsenal Kyiv was fully established in 1993. FC Boryspil, the club where it all began, was established by Dmytro Zlobenko and Ihor Kovalevych on March 9, 1993. Merging with FC Nyva Myronivka who were playing in the Transitional League. The club was temporarily renamed Nyva-Borysfen in the 1992-93 season; the club soon found its rivalry establishing between themselves and Dynamo Kyiv.
Meeting in the Ukrainian Cup, Nyva-Borysfen suffered a 7-1 defeat over two legs. This derby would be the start with more to come. Returning to familiar roots of FC Borysfen Boryspil for the 1993-94 season, the club was now competing in the Second League. Securing the services of Viktor Kolotov and Anatoliy Demyanenko, both of whom had playing careers at Dynamo Kyiv, set the club on a path of optimism. Changing its name to FC Boryspil during the winter break of the 1993-94 season, the club dared to be ambitious by negotiating with legendary Ukrainian coach, Valeriy Lobanovskyi. Unfortunately for the club, they were unable to secure his services. Despite the disappointment, FC Boryspil were promoted to the First League. Appointing Volodymyr Bezsonov as their new manager, the club soon found itself merging with another club in 1994.
Merging with the Central Sports Club of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (CSK ZSU) under the new name of FC CSKA-Borysfen Boryspil, the CSK ZSU now had two professional teams under its wings. With this being the case, the original club under the CSK ZU, CSKA Kyiv, was reorganised to become Borysfen’s second team. The merger saw the club relocated from Boryspil to Kyiv, resulting in another name change. Now known as CSKA-Borysfen Kyiv, it did not take long for the newly merged team to get promoted.
Now in the top flight of Ukrainian Football, it appeared that everything was running smoothly. Their first season in the top flight saw the club finish 4th, an impressive achievement for a newly promoted club. Hoping to replicate and improve on their performance of the 1995-96 season, CSKA-Borysfen Kyiv marched forward into a positive era. However, 1996 brought across more change at the club. Splitting into two different clubs, FC CSKA Kyiv and Borysfen Boryspil, with the management of CSKA-Borysfen deciding to recreate a club back in Boryspil, left FC CSKA Kyiv under the wings of the Ministry of Defense.
The further transformation had an impact on the club. After the impressive fourth place for the 1995-96 season, FC CSKA Kyiv found themselves dropping down the table. Despite the drop down the table, Kyiv found themselves reaching the final of the Ukrainian Cup, and even having success on the European stage. The clubs greatest achievement came during the 2001-02 UEFA Cup. Defeating Jokerit and Serbian Giants Red Star Belgrade, CSKA Kyiv found themselves reaching the second round where they were knocked out by Club Brugge. Again, the club was hit by more change. Due to a financial crisis at CSKA, the budget was cut, leaving the club with the possibility of being dissolved. As a result of the efforts by then Kyiv mayor, Oleksandr Omelchenko, the Kyiv Administration decided on the purchase of CSKA’s first team, leading to the creation of the club now known as Arsenal Kyiv.
Becoming the cities team, Arsenal Kyiv was fully funded by the city administration. The change and unsettled nature surrounding the club translated into performances in the league. Failing to emulate their fourth-place finish in the 1995-96 season, Kyiv became a typical mid-table side.
Unfortunately, Arsenal Kyiv continued to be hit with instability, especially when regarding finances. With budgets being cut by the city administration, there was little hope for the club to enter a stable period where success could be achieved. Sold to Ukrainian oligarch, Vadim Rabinovich in 2007, there was hope the club would only look forward. With a familiar picture building, that wasn’t the case for Arsenal Kyiv. The club was sold in 2009 to Leonid Chernovetskyi for 1 Hryvnia. This mismanagement and lack of care for the club was clear. Rabinovich re-entered the picture in 2010 when he bought back the club in the hope correcting the mistake and putting it on a clear path.
Unfortunately, this was never the case. Handled without care, Arsenal Kyiv faced a grim future. Three years went by, and Kyiv was on the path to non-existence. Run into the ground by oligarchs; Arsenal Kyiv was hit by the unthinkable, liquidation and bankruptcy. Announcing that the club could face liquidation, Rabinovich sunk the knife into the hearts of the fans. It was later announced that Oleksandr Onyshchenko would finance the club and solve the crisis at Arsenal Kyiv.
The circus surrounding Arsenal Kyiv was soul destroying, especially for the fans. Treated without a care in the world, the club was on a slope into the dark abyss. Rabinovich resigned from his position as club President on August 29, 2013. The next day, Onyshchenko stated that he could choose not to help the club in dire straits. On October 24, it was announced that Onyshchenko would no longer finance the club, he left behind a mess that could not be fixed. Unable to sustain themselves, the General Director of Arsenal Kyiv announced that club was filling for bankruptcy and withdrawing from competitions. Fourteen games into the 2013-14 season, Arsenal Kyiv seised to exist.
Revived as FC Arsenal Kyiv by former players, fans and Oleksiy Kikireshk, the club was risen from its ashes, spreading its wings and set free from the doom and gloom of the past. Remerging as nothing, Arsenal Kyiv was about to become something. Starting in the depths of the Kyiv City League, Arsenal Kyiv soon found itself winning the league and in a position to progress to the Second League (Druha Liha).
Applying for participation in the 2015-16 season, the club found itself entering an era of stability which it lacked previously. As a result of stability, Arsenal Kyiv were now able to establish itself as a football club that can compete and take on whoever is put in front of them. Promoted in their first season in the First League (Persha Liha), Arsenal Kyiv were one step away of returning to the heights of the Ukrainian Premier League. Their first season in the Persha Liha saw the club finish tenth with 12 wins, nine draws, and 13 loses.
This year Arsenal Kyiv have turned a new page in their challenging history. Signing a total of 15 players for the season, it was clear that the club wanted to prove a point. Prove a point they did. Going on a 19 game unbeaten streak to start their season, Arsenal Kyiv currently sit top of the Persha Liha. With a +27 goal difference and the lowest goals against in the league, it is clear that the club reigning from the capital is firing on all cylinders. Managed by a familiar face, Serhiy Litovcehnko has taken the league by storm. Arsenal Kyiv now face the genuine prospect of returning to the top flight of Ukrainian Football. Rising like a Phoenix from their ashes, Arsenal Kyiv are spreading their wings with pride in the hope of returning to its former glory.
Callum Seniuk is a History graduate from the United Kingdom who is an avid watcher of the Bundesliga. Losing his passion for the Premier League, Callum quickly found himself developing his love for the Bundesliga and German football. Channeling his Ukrainian heritage, Callum also follows and keeps track of Ukrainian Football. Follow Callum on Twitter @CallumSeniuk