22nd November 2011
Ukraine celebrates five years in Rugby League
The Ukrainian Rugby League Federation (UFRL) is celebrating five years of the sport in the country.
Vice president and the main driving force behind Ukrainian rugby league, Artur Martyrosyan, was first introduced to the sport in Russia where he played for the Vereya Bears. Sharing a house with fellow imports, Serbians Dalibor Vukanovic and Soni Radovanovic, the idea of starting a rugby league operation in Ukraine was born in their kitchen.
Rugby League European Federation Central Europe Regional Director Jovan Vujosevic offered copious advice to the fledgling organisation and the dreams were soon made a reality by Artur’s father, Artur senior. A highly respected figure, the elder Martyrosyan is immortalised through his name adorning the Ukrainian cup competition.
“Everyone can be sure that there are enough dedicated people involved in rugby league in Ukraine who really do love this game,” said the man carrying on the Martyrosyan legacy.
He set up the pioneering Legion XIII club in 2006 which was soon participating in the Russian championship and still sets the standard for domestic development in Ukraine, where the sport is now starting to expand from its eastern hub.
The UFRL, officially created in Kharkov in 2008, has now achieved Membership status of the RLEF and is in a good position to consolidate its gains and develop the sport even further.
In addition to the seven clubs that currently play open age rugby league – three from Kharkov; Legion-XIII, UIPA, and Storm-DYUSSH7, two from Donetsk; Tigers and Typhoon and Dnepr from Dnepropetrovsk - the UFRL in 2011 also played an eight-team junior championship between schools in Kharkov and Donetsk.
Two Ukrainian channels, Sport 1 and Sport 2, show the Super League, while the UFRL hosts its own programme called The Oval Ball Club.
“A lot of work has been done,” continued Martyrosyan, “but more is yet to be ndertaken in the future. We want to be stronger, the federation wants to thank everyone who is participating in this great project.”
The Ukrainian national team has just completed its first tour to England which included being guests at Wembley during the recent Gillette Four Nations tournament.
Heavily beaten by BARLA Under 23s in their first game, they recovered superbly under the tutelage of Steve Crooks and Gareth Pratt to defeat Leeds University 30-10. Pratt commented, “The Ukrainian players and coaches were very enthusiastic and I was encouraged by their capabilities. The attitude of the lads really came through and they really showed a desire to learn.”
It was a fitting way to celebrate their anniversary as coach Martyrosyan noted, “The whole tour was a terrific experience, we`ve learnt a lot about England and Rugby League at different levels. We had invaluable experience practicing with great local coaches and last but by no means least, we played two matches that gave us a lot of inspiration to carry on getting better at the game that we love so much.”