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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dinamo Struggles To Overcome Ban

Dinamo Kiev, one of the semifinalists in the Commonwealth Cup soccer tournament, almost didn't make it that far. The Ukrainian champion almost didn't make it to Moscow at all.


The team needed clarification of its status from the European soccer governing body to play in its first international tournament since being disqualified from UEFA-sponsored cup competitions for three years for attempting to bribe a referee. The incident occurred before a Champions' League match with Panathinaikos last September in Kiev.


Dinamo refused to play in the annual Commonwealth Cup the last two years, saying that the indoor surface might cause injuries to players. Coach Josef Sabo still doesn't like indoor soccer.


"You just have to look at my players' feet," he said Tuesday night after Dinamo beat Zhalgiris Vilnius 3-0 in their quarterfinal. "They all have blisters."


The Kiev coach then went straight to CSKA arena to scout pre-tournament favorite Spartak Vladikavkaz, which was pounding on poor Neftchi from Fergana, Uzbekistan in another quarterfinal, 9-0.


The Ukrainians will face Dinamo Minsk in Thursday's semifinals, while Skonto Riga takes on Spartak.


Sabo is unhappy with the schedule, which he says favors the Russian team.


"Spartak is playing these pick-up teams while we are facing the toughest opponents," he said. "You can't run a serious tournament when someone gets an unfair advantage."


Kiev is the only team in the cup to bring its own security, after a bomb went off during a match in Donetsk last October, killing Shakhtyor boss Alexander Bragin and five others. Two dozen bodyguards now surround Sabo and team president Grigory Surkis at all times.


"The criminal situation is bad everywhere, whether it's Kiev or Moscow," the coach said.


Sabo said that he, along with many of his players, received offers from clubs which expected an exodus after UEFA announced its ban. Vladikavkaz coach Valery Gazzayev was among the suitors.


"I was in Kiev the day after we played our last match in the Russian championship," Gazzayev said. "I was very interested in a couple of their players, particularly [Andrei] Shevchenko, but we didn't come to terms with Kiev." The 19-year-old international forward is one of Kiev's most sought-after players.


"We want to win this tournament more than anything, just to show people Dinamo is not dead," said Yevgeny Pokhlebayev, who scored his first career hat-trick against Zhalgiris. "Now, the shock and anger after the disqualification are gone and we are looking forward to the coming season."


Pokhlebayev said the team is hoping the ban will be reduced so Dinamo can play in the Champions' League next fall.


"This is the main reason that no one has left the team," he said. "The tragedy made us even stronger -- united the team."


Sabo said the sanctions are too severe. "They could have fined us 1 million, 2 million, anything, but don't take away the chance to play," he said. "They wanted to destroy the team."


(For other results, see Scorecard.)