2015 was quite rich for Ukraine in terms of sport events and achievements. In November, its national football team qualified for the Euro 2016 in France. The “yellow blues” are to play their first game against Poland in Marseille, June 21. As less than six months remained to the competition, 112 International gathered several facts about the city and the arena that will host Ukraine’s first game in Euro 2016 group stage.
The widely famous Chateau d’If, popularized in Alexandre Dumas’s Le Comte de Monte-Cristo; the seaport, always filled with snow-white yachts; and, of course, the Velodrome, the home stadium to Olympique de Marseille football club. All of these sights let you know you’re in one of France’s most picturesque places, often called “little Algeria” due to the large number of local residents of Algerian descent.
Ukraine’s football record in Marseille
Since gaining independence in 1991, Ukraine has been represented at many sport events. In the frameworks of football competitions, Ukrainian teams happened to play in Marseille several times.
In 2004, Dnipro FC stood up against Marseille in the last 32 round of the UEFA Cup. The team from Dnipropetrovsk lost in the second leg after Didier Drogba’s penalty kick and left the tournament.
In 2009, Shakhtar Donetsk came up onto the Velodrome’s pitch and defeated Marseille 2-1. As the “Miners” won the first leg in their home match (2-0), they safely made it to the semifinals. They met Dynamo Kyiv there and beat them, too. On May 20, 2009, in Istanbul, Shakhtar defeated Werder Bremen (2-1) and won the UEFA Cup.
Ukrainian goalkeeper Dmytro Nepogodov (see photo above) played for Marseille’s second squad for three seasons in a row, from 2007 till 2009. Unfortunately, he never made it to the first team with its great goalie Steve Mandanda; nonetheless, it was priceless experience for the Ukrainian footballer. Nepogodov currently plays for Vorskla FC (Poltava, Ukraine).
Some of the current roster of Ukraine’s national team – goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov, midfielder Ruslan Rotan and defender Olexandr Kucher – previously played at the Velodrome. Who knows, maybe this time fortune smiles upon them?
Cherchez la femme
Olympique de Marseille FC is owned by a lady. And, she’s not just a lady – she’s the world’s richest woman who’s really fond of football. Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, the businesswoman of Russian descent, was previously married to Swiss billionaire Robert Louis-Dreyfus. In 2009, she took over as Chairman of the Louis Dreyfus Group, following her husband’s death from leukemia. As of 2015, she had a net worth of USD 8.4 billion, according to Forbes.
The Velodrome: Marseille’s home stadium
The arena was built in 1937. The reason for such naming was quite appropriate as the stadium often hosted cycling events. So it was until the major reconstruction in the 1980s, when the cycling track turned into a football stadium; the city was preparing for Euro-1984 in France. Another three reconstructions took place since then, including the one in 2014. The Velodrome’s current capacity is 67 000 visitors.
Under the approved Euro-2016 schedule, the stadium in Marseille will host the following games:
June 11: England – Russia (group stage)
June 15: France – Albania (group stage)
June 18: Iceland – Hungary (group stage)
June 21: Ukraine – Poland (group stage)
June 30: Quarterfinals
July 7: Semifinals