The Death Match
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (April 2012)|
|Date||9 August 1942|
|Venue||Zenit stadium, Kiev|
The Death Match (Russian: Матч смерти, Ukrainian: Матч смерті, Match smerti – Match of death) is a name for an exhibition association football game in the summer of 1942 between the team of a local bakery employees "Start" (Cyrillic: Старт) — former professional footballers from Dynamo Kyiv and Lokomotyv Kyiv — and soldiers of air defense artillery, pilots and airfield support personnel "Flakelf" (German: Flakelf) (according to James Riordan the Nazi Wehrmacht). Note that Flakelf is an abbreviated combination of the German words Flak (Fliegerabwehrkanone – air defense artillery) and elf – eleven which was used to denote an association football team (such as London XI). The importance of the game lays in the Soviet propaganda that promotes the unshakable will of Soviet players who sacrificed their lives facing an ultimate adversity. Later most of the players received the medal "For Courage".
The Soviet footballers defeated the Germans and, according to the players, on 18 August ten of the players were sent to a German concentration camp. Later six escaped and four were killed. The expression "match of death" has appeared in a Kiev newspaper "Stalinskoye plemya" (Stalin's tribe) on August 24, 1946 (#164, page 3) where a film novel of Aleksandr Borshchagovsky was published. The claims that the name was first used by Lev Kassil in 1943 cannot find a physical support.
In 1974 a case about the "Death Match" was opened by the prosecution office of Hamburg and was finally closed by the investigation commission in February 2005. The investigation commission was not able to find any connections between the game and the execution of people who participated in it. In 2005, the Prosecution Office of the city of Hamburg closed the case file about the "legendary" Death Match after over 30 years. The German verdict indicated there was no evidence that the Kievan footballers were shot for being victorious over their German opponents.
Football had become very popular in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, particularly in Ukraine. Ukraine's strongest team at that time was Dynamo Kyiv, which was part of the Dynamo sports society and funded by the police (including the NKVD). In 1938, Dynamo Kyiv came in fourth in the national league, but performed poorly in 1939 and 1940.
The 1941 season was never completed, as Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. Several Dynamo Kyiv players joined the military and went off to fight. As the Germans approached Kyiv, the others who had stayed behind helped out with civil defense in the city. The initial success of the Wehrmacht allowed it to capture the city from the Red Army. Several of the Dynamo Kyiv players who had survived the onslaught found themselves in prisoner-of-war camps.
Many were prisoners in the Darnytsia Camp. The Darnitsa Camp was a makeshift camp for prisoners of war. In taking Kiev the Germans captured over 600,000 Soviet soldiers. The Germans "categorized" and "processed" the captured soldiers; many were executed, others were sent to Germany as slave labour, and others were sent to death camps. Those prisoners categorized as most harmless were released into the general population of occupied Kiev. It was in this group that Kolya Trusevych, Oleksiy Klymenko, Ivan Kuzmenko, Mykola Makhinya, Pavlo Komarov, Makar Honcharenko, Fedir Tyutchev, Mykhailo Sviridovsky and Mykhailo Putsin found themselves, homeless and starving.
Team of a Kiev city bakery 
It was at Kiev's Bakery Number 3 that the players eventually gathered to work. This began when Mykola Trusevych, Dynamo's goalkeeper returned to the city after being released from the Darnitsa camp. Trusevych was given a job as a sweeper in the bakery by Otto Schmidt, a German born in Kiev who was also a Dynamo fan. Otto Schmidt was the bakery's manager, who held his privileged position there because of his German origins. Schmidt then hit on the idea of setting up a bakery football team and in the spring of 1942, Trusevych began a search of Kiev, looking for his former teammates. His first find was winger Makar Honcharenko. Honcharenko remembers the invitation:
Mykola came to me at Khreshchatyck Street where I was living illegally at my former mother-in-law's house. He came to me to have a chat about this idea and to find some of the other boys. We got in touch with Kuzmenko and Svyridovskiy and they contacted some of the others.
Over the next few weeks, Start was formed, comprising eight players from Dynamo (Mykola Trusevych, Mykhailo Svyridovskiy, Mykola Korotkykh, Oleksiy Klymenko, Fedir Tyutchev, Mykhailo Putistin, Ivan Kuzmenko, Makar Honcharenko) and three players from Lokomotiv Kyiv (Volodymyr Balakin, Vasyl Sukharev and Mykhailo Melnyk).
The inaugural game of the season took place on June 7, 1942. That day, Start played its first game in the local league against Rukh, a team made up of other Ukrainian players. The league itself was run by Heorhiy Shvetsov, a former footballer and sports instructor, and Rukh was Shvetsov's team. Start won 7–2. All its home games Start played at its home stadium "Zenit" that was built in 1939 for the Petrovsky bread factory.
The decision to play in the league was not easy for the Start players. There were those among the players that believed participating in Shvetsov’s league was tantamount to collaboration with the Nazis, because they were supporting the league as a way to introduce "normality" into the city, pacifying it by winning over the populace. Other players believed, however, that playing would help raise the morale of the citizens of Kiev.
In the end, the decision was made to play. To emphasize the fact that the players were playing for the city, they wore red football jerseys that Trusevych and Putsin found in an abandoned warehouse. "We do not have weapons," Trusevich told them, "but we can fight with our victories on the football pitch...for a while the members of Dynamo and Zheldor (Locomotive) will be playing in one color, the color of our flag. The Fascists should know that this color cannot be defeated." Start were never defeated.
In 1942, FC Start played several matches with teams of soldiers of various occupying garrisons, and won them all:
|Date||Opponent||Score (Start in bold)|
|June 21||Hungarian garrison||6–2|
|July 5||Romanian garrison||11–0|
|July 12||Military railroad workers team||9–1|
|July 17||PGS (Germany)||6–0|
|July 19||MSG.Wal (Hungary)||5–1|
|July 21||MSG.Wal (Hungary)||3–2|
|August 6||Flakelf (Germany)||5–1|
|August 9||Flakelf (Germany)||5–3 (death match)|
|August 16||Rukh (Ukrainian Nationals)||8–0|
The German administration soon became aware that the FC Start victories might inspire the Ukrainians and decrease the morale of the Axis troops.
The Death Match 
After their defeat on 6 August 1942, the German Luftwaffe team, Flakelf, asked for a rematch, which took place on 9 August 1942 at Zenit Stadium. Unlike other games, this game had a heavy presence of police and German troops, who were guarding the event. An SS officer was appointed as referee. Before the game the referee visited FC Start in their locker room. "I am the referee of today’s game," he said, "I know you are a very good team. Please follow all the rules, do not break any of the rules, and before the game greet your opponents in our fashion." "Our fashion" being the Nazi salute.
Although the Start players realized that a victory in this game might have grave consequences, they decided to play the game, and play it well. Upon entering the pitch, the team also refused to give the Nazi salute to the German soldiers and high ranking officials gathered at the game.
As anticipated by FC Start, the Nazi referee ignored Flakelf fouls. The German team quickly pressured the goalkeeper, Trusevych who—after repeated physical challenges—was kicked in the head by a Flakelf forward and left groggy. While Trusevych was recovering, Flakelf went one goal up.
The referee continued to ignore FC Start appeals against their opponents' violence. The Flakelf team reputedly continued to attempt to intimidate FC Start, allegedly going for the man not with the ball, shirt-holding, and tackling from behind, as well as going over the ball. Despite this FC Start scored with a long shot from a free kick by Kuzmenko. FC Start's Honcharenko, against the run of play, is said to have dribbled the ball around almost the entire Flakelf defence, finishing by placing the ball into the German net to make the score 2–1. At the half, FC Start were up 3–1.
During the half-time break, FC Start once again had visitors in their locker room. The first was Shvetsov, who asked the players to throw the match. He was followed by an SS officer, who told the Start players that the Germans were very impressed with their skill but they should understand that they cannot expect to win, and should consider the consequences should they do so.
During the second half, each side scored twice. Towards the end of the match, with FC Start 5–3 up, Klymenko, a defender, got the ball, beat the entire German rearguard and walked around the German goalkeeper. Then, instead of letting it cross the goal line, he turned around and kicked the ball back towards the centre circle. The SS referee blew the final whistle before the ninety minutes were up.
Post game development 
A week later on 16 August, Start defeated Rukh again, this time 8–0. On 18 August nine of FC Start players were arrested and tortured by the Gestapo, allegedly for being NKVD members. Two more players were arrested later. One of the arrested players, Mykola Korotkykh, died under torture. The other, Oleksander Tkachenko, was shot during an alleged escape attempt. The rest were sent to the Syrets labour camp, where Ivan Kuzmenko, Oleksiy Klymenko, and Mykola Trusevych were executed in February 1943. The few survivors included Fedir Tyutchev, Mykhailo Sviridovskiy and Makar Honcharenko, who managed to escape from the Syrets labour camp and were responsible for the popularisation of this story in Soviet popular culture.
On 16 November 1943, Izvestiya was the first newspaper to report the execution of the sportsmen by the Germans in the article "Tak bylo v Kiyevye" (So it was in Kiev) by a special military correspondent Ye.Kriger. The correspondent however only informed that the former players who tried to evade hunger were discovered by Germans at a local bread factory and everyone was executed.
The name match of death or "Death Match" had really struck the public attention in November 1958, after Petro Severov published the article "The Last Duel" in the bi-lingual newspaper of the Communist Party of Ukraine "Vechirniy Kiev" (Evening Kiev) that recently in the spring of 1958 was thrashed on anti-Semitic grounds by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In that article Severov connected the execution of players with the "revanche" game. The following year Fizkultura i sport published a novel of Severov together with Naum Khalemsky with the same name that told the story of Start team and its struggle against the Nazi occupiers. Memoirs by Makar Honcharenko followed.
The story became romanticized and widely popular in the Soviet Union, especially in the Ukraine area. Two movies based on the story – Third Time (Mosfilm, 1964) and The Match of Death – were released. The story also inspired two non-Soviet films: the 1961 Hungarian film Két félidő a pokolban and the 1981 American film Escape to Victory.
|“||For our beautiful presence
They fell in a fight...
For ages your glory won't fade,
The fearless hero-athletes.
Disclosing the myth 
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2011)|
Numerous other interviews were held with the participants of the match and related events, and as time has passed, their stories have changed from extremely revolutionary into a more realistic story.
The German magazine Der Spiegel stated: "When the footballers of "Start" were still in the dressing room, they were visited by a young German in black uniform and in a good Russian introduced himself as a referee. He was a member of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and requested that the Ukrainians would greet their opponents "in our manner". On the field the players of "Flakelf" raised their right hand and yelled "Heil Hitler!" Ukrainians answered: "Da zdravstvuyet sport!" (Hail sport!).
...During the intermission between periods the Schutzstaffel officer appeared in the Start's dressing room. "You must not win!" – he declared. "I am asking you think about the consequences".
According to Vladlen Putistin, a son of one of the match participants: "Father never mentioned about that somebody would enter into their dressing room and furthermore threatening to shoot" ("Bulvar", August 7, 2002). A Greek documentary on the event featured a former player of "Flakelf" named Willie Endelbardt, who stated that prior to the match, an officer entered their dressing room and announced roughly the following: "It is a special game and you have to win it to prove the superiority of the Aryan race". Endelbardt stated that the Germans played normally and respected the other sportsmen.
Journalist Nikolai Dolgopolov wrote: "Referees were in the way. Judged only Germans".
Makar Honacharenko stated that the German players "Thrashed us so that the bones rattled. The referee liked it. The German referee did not allow us near the goalpost".
Other witnesses indicated that the matches involving "Start" were usually refereed by Romanians, who, as well as the Hungarian Axis allies, were less loyal to Hitler. They also claimed that most of the games were refereed by an ober-lieutenant Erwin who at the slightest violation would send the player off the field.
Nikolai Dolgopolov: "Misha Sviridovsky brought the uniform: white shorts, red shirts, red gaiters".
Nikolai Dolgopolov: "After the game, they understood – the last, quietly dispersed to their homes... In the morning they were arrested".
The son of Mykhailo Pustinin, Vladlen, tells that after the match on August 9, his father, Tyutchev, and himself were stopped by a patrol of Gendarmerie on the Saksahansky Street (vulytsia Saksahanskoho) late in the evening during a commandant hour. When the Germans recognized who they had stopped, they immediately let go with an approving "Gut!".
As the myth states, immediately after the match, Mykola Korotkykh was arrested and perished after several days in the torture chambers of the Gestapo, while the other footballers were sent to a camp.
In actuality, Mykola Korotkykh was arrested on August 6, before the game took place, because he was a member of the Communist party, and the Germans had found a picture of him in an NKVD uniform. Later, he indeed perished in Gestapo hands.
On 18 August 1942, Trusevych, Klymenko, and Putistin were arrested at the bakery, and were interrogated by the Gestapo on Korolenko Street (vulytsia Korolenka) for 23 days, after which they were sent to the camp at Syrets. They were executed at Babyn Yar.
- Riordan, James. "The Match of Death: Kiev, 9 August 1942" in Soccer & Society, Volume 4, Issue 1 March 2003, pp. 87–93. doi:10.1080/14660970512331390753
- О. Ясинский. «Старт» — Flakelf — «матч смерти»?
- (Russian)Disclosed myths about the Death match.
- Dynamo, Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev, Andy Dougan, The Lyons Press, p. 79, 102–103.
- Dynamo, Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev, Andy Dougan, The Lyons Press, p. 79.
- Dynamo, Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev, Andy Dougan, The Lyons Press, pp. 102–103, 107.
- Dynamo, Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev, Andy Dougan, The Lyons Press, p. 112.
- Dynamo, Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev, Andy Dougan, The Lyons Press, p. 138.
- История города: Легендарные стадионы Киева (City's History: Legendary stadiums of Kiev). www.interesniy.kiev.ua
- Dynamo, Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev, Andy Dougan, The Lyons Press, p. 135-36.
- Dynamo, Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev, Andy Dougan, The Lyons Press, p. 137.
- Dynamo, Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev, Andy Dougan, The Lyons Press, p. 161.
- Dynamo, Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev, Andy Dougan, The Lyons Press, p. 158-61.
- Dynamo, Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev, Andy Dougan, The Lyons Press, p. 164
- Dynamo, Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev, Andy Dougan, The Lyons Press, p. 170-71.
- Dynamo, Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev, Andy Dougan, The Lyons Press, p. 178.
- Anisimov, A. "City of Yegupets and its residents". Newspaper "Kyivskyi telegraf". April 30, 2006
- Severov, P., Khalemsky, N. "Poslyedniy poyedinok" (Last Duel). "Fizkultura i sport". Moscow 1959.
- Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-275268-0
- В Киеве приватизирован стадион, принимавший "матч смерти" (In Kiev was privatized a stadium that hosted the "Death Match"). www.svobodanews.ru.
Further reading 
- Andy Dougan 2002, Dynamo: Defending the Honour of Kiev, Fourth Estate, London
- Sheila Fitzpatrick 1999, Everyday Stalinism, OUP, Oxford
- Eduardo Galeano 1997, Football in Sun and in Shadow, Fourth Estate, London
- John Keegan 1989, The Second World War, Pimlico, London
- Aino Kuusinen 1974, Before and After Stalin, Joseph, London
- Richard Overy 1997, Russia's War, Allen Lane, London
- (Russian) (link) Vartanyan, Aksel. Chronicles of Aksel Vartanyan: Myth of the Death match. "Sport-Express". February 16.
- BBC report about the Death Match
- "The Story of FC Start" ESPN 2012
- Матч смерти в Киеве (1942) (Death match in Kiev (1942))
- "Матч смерти" ("Match of death")