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A strong-willed girl - football star in Ukraine

 The Way Home - Ukraine 14 November 2019

Football is a man’s game. This, at least, is the view of most Ukrainian men. But, nevertheless, the representatives of “the weaker sex” take to the football pitches with the same enthusiasm and pleasure as their male counterparts- with often great results. (913 Words) - By Artem Zverkov

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The Way home_Alina

Footballer Alina Tselutina (Portrait picture - Download to see full image). Photo: The Way home

It is obvious that women's football is not very well developed in Ukraine. Compared to men's football people pay very little attention to women's football. They do, however, have a Ukrainian women's national football team, Ukrainian football championships for women; and women take part in European Cup competitions. In 1991 the first FIFA Women's World Championship was held, though a Ukrainian team has not yet taken part in the world competitions.

There is a difference between the classic or "big" football and the street football. Women are allowed to play it with men in the same team, and it's a very positive achievement.

Since the very first day when the football club "Domovenock" was opened, girls were members of it, they played games not only for the sake of it; they played games to prove their professionalism on the pitch. I remember there was a tournament in Ternopol, where Rita Bezverchaya played as a goalkeeper for the Odessa team, in other games which were played in Donetsk and Kiev Lena Snisarenko, Oksana and Alina Tselutina also took part.

I would like to tell you about Alina's life and football career. She started to play football by chance.  Being a nosy and curious teenager she went to see The Domovenock team in training. Then she took part in the training and then she went as far as to hit the ball a few times, though she was hit with the ball a couple of times as well.

The coach did not expect to see her again, but surprisingly she came back and asked for permission to take part in training. It's very difficult to train an adult person with a fully formed character and skill set to play basic football, because people usually obtain those skills being children. The coach did not think it could be done.

When you train kids to play football, some skills like " pass the ball forward", or "dribbling with the ball", or "blocking the ball " come quickly, naturally. As they mature they just build upon their basic skills. It was different in Alina's case as she was an adult - she wanted to play right away, but willingness was not enough.

She played like a five year old boy who got a chance to play with the big kids and tried to hit the ball and send it as far as possible, chase it and hit it again.

For this reason Alina had to be trained individually to trap and pass the ball and she had to hit the ball in between the goal posts for hours, while the rest of the team were training on complex plays. These hours spent on repetitive drills built up not only her skills but also her resolve. Slowly, gradually, she was allowed to take part in the team training.

It was obvious that the girl experienced difficulties but, over time, they were smoothed out. Alina always liked to play with the older players, precisely because it's a different level of the game.  The challenge was greater and the mistakes more costly, but so too were the rewards.

Gradually the boys got used to her, she was not the girl on the pitch any more, the boys did not need to take extra care when passing her the ball.. She became an equal football team player.

Her coach let her play some games against local teams, and during one of them her moment arrived.  In one match she moved in to take a penalty kick that had been awarded to her side. As she did so the opposite team players gave her quizzical looks, derisory even. A couple of players took a minute to bet that she would not even manage to hit the ball between the goal posts

Alina knew something that they did not, the long hours of drilling shots between goalposts on the training pitch, when she wasn't allowed to practice with the boys, had given her a shot.  Shrugging off the stares from both sets of players she placed the ball. Whistle... Run-up... and the ball hit the net with such a strength it nearly burst, the goalkeeper never even had time to put his arms up.

Alina's team won that game.  Later they finished second in a tournament in Kiev where Alina played a key role.

In December 2010 the Alina was invited to trials for the Odessa football club "Chernomorochka", the team that plays in the championship of Ukraine. The coach was satisfied with Alina's skills and she was accepted. Several months later, after the game against a local university team "The Food Academy" its coach approached Alina and made an offer to her to play for his team, to have an opportunity to enter the University and to keep playing for "The Chernomorochka". Football has provided Alina with a life changing opportunity.

There is a future for growth in Ukrainian women's football. Alina's example is clear evidence of the talent and drive that exists in female players. Alina started to play football only when she was an adult, but by training harder than the men, she gained a high level of skill and arguably a higher level of professionalism. She moved from playing football for the sake of a girl's curiosity to playing for the sake of an education and career. The future of the Women's game in Ukraine is so long as players like Alina are encouraged.

Translated by Lina Matkovska

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