Swordfighting and football don’t mix – right? Well I’m not sure after witnessing the Folk Football festival in Kyiv which coincided with the staging of the quarter-finals.
Good on the Ukrainians for using the tournament to promote their own culture.
And I was certainly not prepared for a battle Royal between two acrobatic swordsmen, duelling spectacularly. In fact it was a lot more thrilling than the Italy v England game.
Sparks were flying off the metal blades as they hammered away at each other in a brilliantly choreographed duel. Errol Flynn eat your heart out. The sparks would have been enough for a council health and safety penpusher to step in and declare the event off back in the UK.
Organiser Georgian playwright Raguli Vlasidze, who looked like he was a rumbustious chunky central midfielder with a kick like a horse back in his youth when no doubt he played in Tiflis, organised it to raise money for good causes.
Money raised will promote education, culture and sport, develop Ukrainian cinema and theatre and ‘encourage national spirituality’.
Ceremonial maces were on sale, football games in a giant paddling pool were organised (‘Allowed: hand gestures and lots of smiling’, said the programme).
The big ball on display in the picture is adorned with the designs of the Pysanko – the traditional painted egg of Ukraine.
Interviewing him via an interpreter was difficult as the English version of what he was saying came out in less than perfect sentences. But there was no doubt of an obvious passion for football.
He said: “Football changes our lives so we want to change people, this festival is for this.”
In the programme, it says: “We believe that the time will soon come when football stadiums worldwide will be adorned with national ornamentation, subconsciously elevating the inherent sense of national spirituality.”
In Wales’s case, that could well be a pint glass I reckon.
Previous to its visit to Kyiv’s famous Andryivsky Street, where the famous writer Bulgakov lived, and which is the centrepiece of the city’s historic Podil area, the folk football bandwagon had been to Lviv and to Ivan0-Frankivsk.
So with its giant football pie, I couldn’t get why this particular item featured, it was a suitably surreal and typically Ukrainian weird concoctioN.
And apparently the Football Peace carpet will be blessed by the Pope himself when it reaches Rome.
The festival’s website is at www.bigball.eu