It has emerged that the Ukrainian government has postponed the release of a film which recounts the story of the “The Death Match”. It fears the film will open old wounds and encourage hostility towards the many thousands of German fans who will be attending the Euro 2012 Championships to be held jointly with Poland this June.
The Death Match was a game played between a Ukrainian team FC Start (made up of eight ex Dynamo Kiev and 3 Lokomotiv Kiev players) and the Nazi soldier team Flakelf on the 9th of August 1942. FC Start had been unbeaten and were warned going into the match that if they were to win the consequences would be serious. An SS officer refereed the game and the Ukrainian team did not give a Nazi salute at the start, so needless to say the odds was not stacked in their favour.
Regardless the team played as they always did and went on to a convincing 5-3 win. Shortly after, nine of the team were arrested. One of the men died in custody and three were shot in a concentration camp six months later. No link was found between the match and the players death, although the team are seen as heroes in their native land with a statue erected in tribute to their endeavours.
The story is perfect for a film and has already been made twice before , the Hungarian film Két félidő a pokolban (Two Half Times In Hell) and the obscure Escape to Victory starring Sylvester Stallone, Pele and Michel Caine.
The film is sure to spark controversy with one critic Volodymyr Voitenko saying “It’s ideological propaganda, which is part of Russia’s neo-imperialist policy” and it has been said that most of the characters who collaborate with the Nazis speak Ukrainian while the admirable characters in it speak Russian. There is as much mystery around the film as the match itself so we will have to wait until after Ireland win the euros to see if the controversy is warranted.