Ihor Kulchytskyi is a retired footballer born in Lviv 13th August 1941. Kulchytskyi was the influential and talented captain of the legendary Karpaty Lviv side that became the only side outside of the top flight to win Soviet Cup in 1969, a feat still fondly remembered by todays Karpaty Lviv fans and forever honoured in Karpaty Lvivs club anthem.
Kul as he was known by the fans started his professional career at Naftovyk Drohobych in 1961. It was during a 5-3 victory over Arsenal Kyiv during his first season, that Kuls distribution and ability to control a game brought him to the attention of Dynamo Kyiv coach Mykhalo Koman, who would give him the opportunity to join them. Kulchytskyi would find first team opportunities at Kyiv very limited with Valery Lobanovskyi the preferred left sided forward, and it would be so that he returned to Lviv to join Silmash Lviv.
The Soviet authorities re-organised the league between 1962-63 creating a new tier, it was as a result of this that a new team was to be created in Lviv. Using the basis of the regional champions Silmash, the new team became Karpaty Lviv, founded 18th January 1963. Kulchytskyi would therefore be one of the first players to pull on the famous green and white shirt. Kul would make one of the midfield births his own, helping to establish the new club. Over the course of the next decade Karpaty would toil in the lower reaches of the constantly changing Soviet League Pyramid, with often drastic changes in personnel. Kulchytskyi would reject offers from Shakhtar Donetsk and the triumvirate of Moscow sides remaining loyal to his Karpaty side, becoming captain towards the end of the 1960’s. It would be under his spell as captain that Karpaty Lviv would enjoy their greatest success.
In 1968 Karpaty would go within a whisker of making it into the Soviet High League, requiring only a win in their final game, a controversial decision by Estonian official Hyarms led to a Rostov equaliser and the end of Karpaty’s promotion dream. However this wouldn’t be the last time Hyarms and Kulchyskyi’s paths would cross, and the 1969 Soviet Cup final would be the scene for their next meeting. Following a heroic cup run Karpaty found themselves walking out onto the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow led be captain Kulchytskyi in the final of the Cup for the first time, facing SKA Rostov. Kulchytskyi would recall walking onto the pitch;
“That song ‘Again there will be blooming Cheremshyna…’ that sounded over the stadium, made out of us something incredible — from that excitement my tears came up…”
Rostov took an early lead, and try as they might Karpaty were unable to grab an equaliser before halftime. The half time break brought the best out of Karpaty and in the second half, not doubt buoyed by their supporters, Kul and his colleagues threw everything at Rostov, drawing level through Lykhachov before completing the turnaround when Bulhakov added a second. With moments to go Rostov had a goal disallowed for offside, this time – previous seasons nemesis – Hyarms would prove to be Karpatys saviour, and the final whistle sent the green and whites into delirium. Upon lifting the trophy to mark the victory, Kulchytskyi would – to this date – be the only Karpaty captain ever to lift a major honour, with Karpaty being the only club to win the Soviet Cup while not playing in the high league. This feat ensures the starting 11 and especially captain Kulchytskyi are close to the hearts of Karpaty fans to this day.
Following their success in 1969, Karpaty would experience European football for the first time, however they were eliminated in the first round by Steaua Bucharest, an experience Kulchytskyi feels him and his colleagues could have made more of. They would however ensure promotion to the High League, by winning their division in 1970. Kulchyskyi would become the first player from outside the High League to be named in the Top 33 Soviet players, and would further enhance his reputation by making his debut for the Soviet Union in a friendly win against Mexico during the 1971 season. Kul had also become a fearsome penalty taker, netting 13 out of 13 sometimes being cunning, but othertimes by simply striking the ball as ferociously as he could! 1972 would be Kulchytski’s final season at the club as he retired, having made 307 appearances for the club (3rd in all time rankings) and scored 37 (8th in all times rankings) while also adding 2 caps for the Soviet Union.
After ending his playing career Kulchytskyi studied to become a coach at the Institute of Physical Education in Moscow, making coaching a profession after his graduation. Kulchyski would return to the re-established Karpaty Lviv as a director in 1989, a decade after the authorities had tried to banish the Karpaty name he had made history with. Kul would continue his work with Karpaty in administrative roles while also working closely with regional football bodies until health issues forced him to retire in the early 00s. Kulchytskyi’s achievements are still recognised and he was named an official friend of Euro 2012.
Ihor Kulchyskyi as a founding player, and captain of the Karpaty Lviv Soviet Cup winning side, we welcome you into The Viktor Leonenko Hall Of Fame.
Ihor Kulchyski Varenyky Rating:
Profile by Ewhen Chymera. Ewhen is head of the Ukrainian Youth Association in Bradford and a co-founder of The Viktor Leonenko Hall Of Fame