Will a man ever command the number 1 shirt for Dynamo Kyiv or Ukraine as much as this man has over the past two decades?
Born in Kyiv on January 2nd 1975, Olexandr Shovkovskyi at an early age set his sights on becoming a goalkeeper. At the age of thirteen, he took money from his parents to buy himself a pair of goalkeeper gloves. He said he wore this pair of gloves to sleep with him and constantly until they were but mere rags on his hands. His progression was impressive and he joined, as many of the other graduates in this hall of fame, the Dynamo Kyiv Youth system.
From here, he quickly established himself as a promising youngster and future number 1, by claiming the position of 1st choice keeper for the Dynamo-3 side and then progressing to the Dynamo-2 side. Despite still being a youngster Shovkovskyi was given an opportunity to feature in the first team in only his third year as a professional, making nine appearances in 1993-94 season, whilst becoming the youngest goalkeeper ever to play for Dynamo Kyiv. Evidently impressing the Dynamo management, Shovkovskyi had firmly established himself as Dynamo number one by the 1994-95 season. It was not only the Dynamo management who were impressed, as the teenage Shovkovskyi was given his international debut in a 3:0 victory over Estonia. He did not claim the national number one jersey as quickly as at Dynamo, he only had brief flirtations with the first team whilst gaining experience with the U-21’s, but by 1997, he was clearly the first choice. In this period, Shovkovskyi had claimed 4 consecutive Ukrainian Premier League titles and a Ukrainian Cup and had won his first Ukrainian Goalkeeper of the Year award. Shovkovskyi also began his own little tradition or superstition that when he walks onto the pitch, he always walks with his right foot first.
Over the next few years, Shovkovskyi would continue as number one for both Dynamo and Ukraine achieving great things. He helped Dynamo reach the latter stages of the Champions League, including the 1998-99 season, where they reached the semi-final. He also helped Ukraine reach the play-offs of Euro 2000 qualifying. It was here however, that Shovkovskyi performed his most significant blunder. He had impressed throughout the qualifying campaign, with Ukraine only conceding 4 goals, which included two in The Game of the Century, and included two clean sheets against world champions France. Having being given the shot in the play-offs by a goalkeeping howler from Russia’s Alexandr Filimonov, Shovkovskyi made his own blunder in the Play-Offs against against Slovenia. A clearance from near his own corner flag fell to a Slovenian player, who fired home from forty metres to allow Slovenia to claim their place at Euro 2000.
Despite this significant set-back, Shovkovskyi retained his number one jersey for both club and country and went onto enjoy more domestic success with Dynamo and further personal accolades with Goalkeeper of the year awards and even a top-50 nomination for the Ballon D’Or award in 1999.
The only time Shovkovskyi lost his place was due to injury and he suffered a significant injury and missed a lot of playing time through 2001-2. He did make a full recovery and went on to regain his number one jersey for both club and country. He enjoyed more domestic success with Dynamo, however the Kyiv sides dominance of the league was not the same after the death of Valeri Lobanovskyi and the rise of Shakhtar Donetsk.
The next significant moment for Shovkovskyi, away from domestic triumphs was with helping Ukraine reach the World Cup Finals of 2006 in Germany. He was Oleg Blokhin’s number one throughout the qualifying campaing and at the finals itself. Here he helped Ukraine reach the quarter finals where they lost to Italy. Despite conceding four in an opening game demolition by Spain, Shovkovskyi went on to keep three consecutive clean sheets, before the defeat to the Italians. This achievement is more impressive when it is noted that Shovkovskyi kept a clean sheet in the penalty shoot-out victory over Switzerland, becoming the first goalkeeper in the history of the World Cup to do so.
Controversy would follow for Shovkovskyi at Dynamo in the following season. With Dynamo struggling in the Champions League under Anatoliy Demyanenko, Shovkovskyi received a red card at the Bernabeua and a subsequent suspension. As club captain, he was expected to attend the next home game (a 3:0 defeat to Lyon) to help the team in any way he could. However, he did not attend the game and watched the game in a bar. Dynamo’s President was not at all impressed with this behaviour and stripped Shovkovskyi of his club captaincy.
By the end of the 2008 season, Shovkovskyi had lost his number 1 position in the national team to Andriy Pyatov, and it would appear this would be the end of his international career. Another significant injury disrupted his form for Dynamo as well, and questions were being asked over the future of the perennial number one. However, Shovkovskyi would not be written off. He is still the club captain of Dynamo even if he is does not get as much playing time, with Koval being Blokhin’s preferred number one. Shovkovskyi retired from international football in 2012 after injury brought an end to a hope of representing Ukraine at their home finals. Sasho has been rejuvenated under Serhiy Rebrov at Dynamo and indicated he is willing to continue playing as long as he is considered a first team regular.
Away from the playing field, Shovkoskyi is a graduate in journalism from the Kyiv Taras Shevchenko University. He is also a keen scuba diver and has dived all over the world. Shovkovskyi, or Sasho as he is know, drives with two wheels rather that three claiming “if four wheels drives the body then two wheels drives the soul” he owns a Yamaha Midnight Star 3000. Sasho is also a keen photographer.
In a glorious career, which is still continuing, Shovkovskyi has amassed thirteen Ukrainian Premier League Titles, nine Ukrainian Cup titles, four Ukrainian Super Cup titles as well as eight individual goalkeeper of the year awards, whilst amassing 92 caps for Ukraine and it would be a brave man who would bet against him adding to these significant achievements. Shovkovskyi is has overtaken Oleh Blokhin’s appearance record for Dynamo and the Ukrainian Premier League appearance record. His achievements in his career have led to him being recognised by the state as Commander of the Order “For Merits” 3rd degree and Knight of the Order “For Merits” 3rd Degree.
Olexandr Shovkovskyi, welcome to the Viktor Leonenko Hall of Fame.
Profile by Peter Chymera, committee member of the UK Ukrainian Sports Supporters Club and Co-founder of the Viktor Leonenko Hall of Fame. Follow Peter on twitter – @PMChymera89