Early June 2020.

Grigor Pasha writes: My first reaction, on learning that I’d somehow managed to keep MFC Mykolaiv in the Ukrainian second tier, was relief.

But this was followed the next day by first, a sense of numbness, and then dejection. Yes, we’d stayed up. But I’d started with such high hopes.

I had imagined that we’d achieve safety without difficulty and would have established the foundations for a certain stylish way of playing. Instead, we survived by the skin of our teeth, playing park football.

I had under-rated the demands of the job. Or perhaps, more truthfully, over-rated my abilities.

But then Mariya, my half-sister, arrived from Burgas, in Bulgaria, to stay for a few days. It was good of her to come: it’s not the most convenient of journeys and neither is it inexpensive.

Over a seafood dinner at the Astoria (I notice that we always dine at the most expensive restaurants when I’m paying) Mariya challenged me over my mood.

‘What did the board want from you? To keep the club up, wasn’t it? And what happened? You kept them up! Why so glum, Grigor, why so glum?’

‘I thought I could do so much better. I should be doing so much better!’

‘And now,’ she continued, ‘They’ve given you a new contract. So here you are a success.’

She raised her glass and propose a toast to ‘continued success’.

I’ve been in better spirits ever since, even though her visit is now over. My eyes have been opened again to what I’d liked about the city when I arrived a year ago. The tree-lined streets and the spacious parks. 

I was sitting enjoying a glass of beer in a cafe in Kashtanovy Square one evening when some supporters recognised me and came over for a chat. I was fearing the worst — ‘Call yourself a manager’ or that kind of thing — but in fact the conversation was full of good cheer and hope for next season. I graciously allowed them to me a beer.

Since then I’ve been able to borrow a boat and explore the Inhul and the Southern Bug.  

Now, though, it’s time to get back to work. I’m determined to ensure that survival next season doesn’t depend on what happens on the final day.

Image credit: Mykolaiv by peatc, generously made available under a CC BY-SA 2.0 licence. 


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