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Ukraine stops 'Death Match' movie

  • AP, Wednesday, April 11, 2012 3:15 PM

Ukrainian authorities blocked the release of a movie depicting the so-called "Death Match" of 1942, when top Kiev soccer players trounced a team of Nazi occupiers and reportedly paid for it with their lives, because of concerns it could ignite explosive emotions just weeks before Ukraine co-hosts the 2012 European Championship.

Officials fear that "The Match," which extolls the heroism of Ukrainian players but portrays many Kiev residents as Nazi collaborators, would teach Ukrainian audiences the wrong image of their country and history. Yaroslav Pidhora-Gvyazdovskiy, a member of the expert commission reviewing "The Match," recommends banning the movie because it promotes ethnic strife. Most of the characters who collaborate with the Nazis speak Ukrainian while the admirable characters in it speak Russian and fearlessly oppose the invaders, he said.

Some experts also fear that it may stoke hostility toward German players.

Historians now say that while defeating the Nazi team was undoubtedly courageous, there is no evidence that all the players were executed in revenge. Nine of the players were arrested about a week after the game. One died in custody and three others were shot in a Kiev concentration camp about six months later, according to Volodymyr Prystaiko, a former Soviet security officer who wrote a book on the game. German investigators concluded in 2005 there was no evidence linking the death of the three players to the match. 

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