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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Blokhin Quits as Ukraine Coach

For MTOleg Blokhin
KIEV -- Oleg Blokhin resigned as Ukraine's national team coach Wednesday, saying he is unable to combine coaching duties with his other job as a member of the Ukrainian parliament.

The executive committee of the Ukraine Football Federation said on its web site it had accepted his resignation and called a news conference for later Wednesday at which it was expected to announce his successor.

The 52-year-old, the European Player of the Year in 1975, told his fellow members of parliament that he decided to quit his coaching job in order to keep his parliamentary mandate.

Blokhin, a Communist Party MP, was named Ukraine coach in September 2003, replacing fellow ex-Soviet international Leonid Buryak, who had been sacked following a string of poor results.

Immediately after his appointment, the former Soviet and Dynamo Kiev striker said his goal was to guide the country to its first major international finals -- and he was on the verge of doing that when he quit.

Ukraine tops European World Cup qualifying Group 2 with 14 points from six matches, six points ahead of European champions Greece, and the country is now on course to reach the finals in Germany next year.

However, Blokhin's resignation deals a blow to Ukraine's chances of topping its group and comes just two weeks before it hosts Denmark in its next qualifier on March 30. Blokhin had a stellar playing career. He played 18 seasons (1970-87) for Dynamo Kiev, most of them under the late Valery Lobanovsky.

He won eight Soviet league titles and two European Cup Winner's Cups in 1975 and 1986 and also played in two World Cups in 1982 and 1986.

Blokhin, who still holds the all-time Soviet league scoring record with 211 goals in 432 games, coached a number of Greek clubs, including Olympiakos, PAOK Salonika and Ionikos, after retiring in 1990.

He became a communist member of Ukrainian parliament shortly after quitting Ionikos in February 1997.

But despite his past achievements both as player and coach, Blokhin's appointment to the Ukraine top job was given a mixed reception.

"Blokhin was disliked by many during his playing days simply because of his uncompromising character, and he hasn't been able to shake off this perception later on," a source close to the Ukrainian Football Federation said Wednesday.

"But despite all that, he definitely brought in a breath of fresh air into Ukrainian football."