Legendary Leopolitans No. 10: Oleh Luzhny: Lviv Footballing Legend
The city of Lviv has a great sporting history, pioneering football, ice-hockey, basketball, water polo and rugby matches since Polish times. In fact, the Polish Football Federation was founded in Lviv in 1911, and many Lvivites, such as Kazimierz Gorski, Ryszard Koncewicz, Michał Matyas and Wacław Kuchar, have achieved notable success as coaches in Poland. Today we take a look at footballing legend, Oleh Luzhny, who has delighted and amazed us for over 20 years, as his career climbed to the top of International Football, captaining Ukraine a record 39 times and becoming one of the most recognised footballers in Ukraine in the process. Today, now retired from play, Oleh works Assistant Coach at FC Dynamo Kyiv, where his experience at home and abroad is invaluable to the team today.
Oleh Luzhny showed promise from an early age; in 1976, this 8-yearold child demonstrated enough talent to be admitted to FC Karpaty’s Sport School until 1984, when he moved on to Lviv Sports Boarding School. In 1985, still studying, he joined his first Ukrainian team, Volyn Lutsk, staying for 3 years, immediately followed by a year with Karpaty Lviv. He signed for Dynamo Kyiv in 1989, making the Right Back position his own. His team enjoyed notable success, winning the USSR Domestic Double in 1990, seven consecutive Ukrainian League titles between 1993 and 1999, and reaching the Semi-Finals of the Champions League 1998-1999. By now, his talent and understanding of the game had secured him the captaincy of the club. No stranger to the International stage, Luzhny debuted for the Soviet Union in 1989, aged 21, going on to win eight caps. After the USSR’s dissolution, he joined the Ukraine National Team, playing no less than 52 International tournaments between 1992 and 2003.
Luzhny captained Ukraine a record 39 times, and achieved immense personal recognition in this country. In December 2000, the Ukrainsky Futbol weekly gave him the 4th highest ranking in their Ukrainian ‘Team of
the Century’, only beaten by the legendary Oleg Blokhin, Andriy Shevchenko and Anatoly Demyanenko.
In 1999, Luzhny moved to the top of the English Premier League, signing for Arsenal for .1.8 million, as long-term replacement for the legendary Arsenal right-back Lee Dixon. Replacing an England International in a foreign league was never going to be easy; his lack of pace was apparent, and he never settled comfortably playing for the Gunners during his 4-year stay. His willingness and desire was admirable, but could not hide the fact that he was simply not an Arsenal player. Fans nicknamed him ‘The Horse’, and as a hard-working, diligent team player he certainly earned it, playing 120 matches over 4 seasons, usually in his favourite Right Back position, and winning the FA Premier League Cup in 2002. His last Arsenal match was the 2003 FA Cup final, where the Gunners cruised to glory with a 1-0 win over Southampton. Luzhny signed for Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2003, but only made 4 appearances in a single season. Released from contract in Summer 2004, he had a brief spell at FK Venta in Latvia as a player-coach, leaving when the club ran into financial difficulties.
Having such a seasoned International understanding of the game, management was the most logical step, and on the 5th November 2007, Luzhny returned to the club where he had played as a 21-year-old boy, becoming interim Manager of Dynamo Kiev for 1 month whilst the Board negotiated with Yuri Semin. Under his management, the club achieved total success in Domestic games, but International wins eluded them. When Semin was named as permanent Manager, Luzhny took the post of Assistant Coach, and set about passing his experience and motivation on to the younger players. A couple of years later, Luzhny found himself in the Manager’s shoes again, when Valery Gazzaev announced his resignation in October 2010. The first match was a disaster, losing 2-0 to Shakhtar Donetsk at Donbass Arena, and after the 19th Round match against PFC Sevastopol, Luzhny informed the fans that he would not be returning after the Winter break. Just 2 months later, Yuri Semin returned to Dynamo Kiev and coaxed Oleh Luzhny back into coaching, to resume his position as Assistant Coach for a re-vitalised Dynamo Kiev.