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Interview: Alexander Savenko Optimistic On Arsenal Kyiv Revival

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Alexander Savenko (on the right)
Alexander Savenko (on the right)

On Nov. 15,  2013, Arsenal Kyiv officially ceased to exist as a club. Financial crisis forced them to withdraw from the Ukrainian Premier League and declare bankruptcy as there were no potential investors who would dare to deal with this “hot potato.”  A couple of months later a group of Arsenal Kyiv fans, former players and employees gathered around to initiate “Arsenal 1925” in order to bring their favorite club back on tracks.

We spoke to Alexander Savenko, an ex-club spokesman who was one of the first to come up with the idea of a possible Arsenal revival.

Mr. Savenko, you started the Arsenal 1925 initiative, a project that should bring former Arsenal Kyiv back on tracks in Ukrainian football?

I'm not the initiator, more like a part of a movement that makes football club "Arsenal". Shoulder to shoulder with me are former employees of the club, the players, main and youth team and, of course, fans of red-blue. It’s flattering that you think of me as a leader, but I am only the voice of our movement. We take all decisions together. To date, the initiative group "Arsenal 1925 " consists of about 20 people, all active participants .

What goals did you put in front of your project?

Revive "Arsenal" in the shortest time, to go from the second league team to top division, to get proper infrastructure and build a strong connection with fans. And in several years, bring the club to the level of self-sufficiency. I think we could achieve that.

 Arsenal Kyiv is officially bankrupt. What about all the debts Arsenal Kyiv left behind? Are they getting in way of your plans?

We're talking about creating a new club, which I hope will go from the lower leagues to the top division of the country. "Arsenal", the one we knew before, ceased to exist. Now as you know, the club is in the process of bankruptcy and it’s not possible to stop that process.

Ukraine is currently witnessing huge riots, thousands of people are on the streets and some even mention the current situation in the context of civil war. That’s certainly not a positive climate for potential investors. How does this reflect on Arsenal 1925?

Yes, of course, such events that occur now in Ukraine are affecting the investment climate. It is now difficult to say how this situation will develop since our deadline is Feb. 25, but despite that we are hopeful.

There were some rumors of a Chinese company taking over Arsenal. Did you reach any kind of agreement and are there any other interested investors?

No, situation has not changed .

What is it that you seek from future owners/investors?

First and foremost, we would like to see the person interested in "Arsenal " as a long-term project . Then, I'm sure it will be possible to talk about decent infrastructure, financial stability and support of youth football. We will be counting much on our youth program, which is currently running in standalone mode with the support of the Football Federation of Kyiv.

Did you discuss the matter with leaders of Ukrainian Football Federation?

While the Football Federation of Ukraine and the Premier League are busy with the bankruptcy of old "Arsenal", it’s not quite possible to discuss things about revival of the club. Even if attracting investment comes up, the club will start from amateur football. We already received all the necessary advice on requirements and certificates for the second division.

If you succeed with this project, Arsenal 1925 would start from second division. Is there enough time for you to prepare for the new season?

We see a real opportunity for the revival of the club in the season 2014/15 and we will do our best to make that happen.

You chose a new name. Why exactly did you pick Arsenal 1925? What about Arsenal Kyiv’s original heritage (the anthem, club colors, etc. )?

We really wanted to keep the ex-club’s tradition on maximum level because it means so much to us. There’s naturally the desire to keep the name of the club - "Arsenal“. The addition to the name is the year of 1925 , more as an attempt to emphasize that this is not the same club. You see, 1925. was the year when the first club in Kyiv was named Arsenal and we want to feel like a part of that story.

In the end, how optimistic are you about revival of your club at this stage?

We are confident that the football club "Arsenal" is needed and will be welcomed by the city and citizens of Kyiv. Working on things that don’t only benefit you but the whole community is the root of success!