American football in Ukraine isn’t a popular sport at all. Even top-level games don’t collect a small stadiums, players don’t sign autographs or earn big fees. However, there are a lot of athletes and coaches with years of experience and even own championship in Ukraine. "Panthers" from small Ukrainian city Poltava is one of the 14 teams of the Ukrainian League of American Football. They are playing only for two years but their dream in football is quite big. At first for Ukrainian viewers it may seem that players compete in the who cripple each other more. In fact football depends on a good strategy more than on muscles, and the list of its rules is one of the largest in the history of team games.
American football of the first league in Ukraine lives on enthusiasm. Only few teams have the support of sponsors. Usually guys rent a field for trainings and competitions by themselves, search used equipment on American sites, collect money on a new uniform at crowdfunding. Most often the players "break" into two fronts: they give all their free time to football in parallel with a main job. Many of the players have a prior experience in the sport but not all of them. There is a team of ex-rugby player, karate coach, fitness trainer, boxer and soccer goalkeeper. The founder of the team, coach and captain Seifadin Almazov used to be a former receiver of the Moscow "Spartans". After returning to Ukraine a few years ago, he could not leave the favorite game and started looking for players for a new team in Poltava.
So, many of the current players found the future "Panthers" in social networks or saw an announcement on the rear window of the coach's car. Today the defense team is also trained by former player of Kharkiv "Atlantes" Youssef Ibrahim. He began to play in his native Egypt.
The Poltava "Panther" is a group of very different people, who have gathered by love to this game. Engineer, fitness trainer, student, builder, IT-manager, masseur, policeman, bartender, butcher and taxi driver are the faces of modern football in Ukraine. When you meet these people on the street, you would never say they throw each other like bags with potatoes on the some weekend. However, when the whistle sounds, they forget about the limitations and go out on the field to embody their Ukrainian American dream.
To read the whole story in Russian, click here.