When you think of Ukraine one player comes to mind – the great Andriy Shevchenko.
Shevchenko is a former player and manager of his country, having scored 48 goals in 111 appearances before taking charge of the national team from 2016 until the conclusion of last summer’s delayed Euro 2020 championship.
But did you know the former European football of the year’s fledgling career started in Aberdeen?
Shevchenko was just 13 when he was sent to the Granite City with the Dynamo Kyiv under-15 squad to compete in the Aberdeen International Football Festival in 1990.
He was, understandably, an unknown at the time but the teenager who would go on to score 175 goals in 322 games for Milan left a lasting impression in Aberdeen as he helped Kyiv win the tournament.
The teenage striking sensation who led Dynamo to the title at Seaton Park
George Wyatt, former chairman of the AIFF, said: “I remember well that Dynamo Kyiv team coming over.
“They came over because they had a link-up with Rangers, I believe they went to Glasgow for a tour around Ibrox before the tournament.
“I clearly remember seeing Shevchenko, he played extremely well in the tournament.
“He was a year or two younger than his team-mates but even then he stood out.”
Aberdeen had been the dominant team in the tournament with their youth select having won six of the previous eight years and more than 3,000 fans turned out to watch the Ukrainian side take on the holders in the final.
Dynamo had reached the final courtesy of a 5-1 win against Middlefield Wasps in the semi-final and, while the young Dons select pushed them all the way, Shevchenko’s man of the match display helped the visitors take the title with a 1-0 win.
Shevchenko was pipped to player of the tournament title at Aberdeen International Football Festival
Incredibly, considering Shevchenko’s glittering career as an adult, he lost out to another future professional star in the race to be named player of the tournament.
Wyatt said: “That was an especially strong year, because Peter Ndlovu, who went on to play for Sheffield United, was playing for a team from Zimbabwe.
“He won player of the tournament and was absolutely outstanding.”
Less than four years after starring at Seaton Park Shevchenko had forced his way into the Dynamo Kyiv first team and he would go on to become a global football star following his exploits in Italy.
Thankfully the legendary former Dynamo Kyiv, AC Milan and Chelsea striker will have to settle for a seat in the stand at Hampden on Wednesday when his successor Oleksandr Petrakov leads the team against Steve Clarke’s side.
The World Cup play-off semi-final promises to be a titanic struggle between two sides chasing a place in Qatar in November with the winners off the semi-final travelling to Cardiff to face Wales in the final on Sunday.