The irony is that the Ukrainians were in many respects welcoming of Hitler’s troops as an escape from the tyranny of Stalin, but once the brutal regime of the German’s became apparent the mood quickly changed. The top soccer team of the day were Dynamo Kiev and, despite being disbanded many of the players (who were released prisoners of war) gathered at the huge "Bakery number 3" and began to search out their former team mates in order to form a new squad.
Their first game (under the name of FC Start) was against a team run by a powerful N*zi sympathizer and, despite working incredibly long shifts at the bakery and being forced to play in work clothes and boots, they won the game 7-2. They subsequently went on a long winning streak beating Hungarian and Romanian army teams that had N*zi support. These results had a huge impact on the morale of the people of Kiev and when FC Start defeated a German army team 6-0 things began to get serious. The occupiers were not happy to see "the Master Race" being humbled in this manner.
On August 9th 1942 FC Start played a German Luftwaffe side in what has become known as "The Game of Death" (Fox Sports now have copyright on this title). Before the game an SS Officer entered the FC Start dressing room and announced that he was the referee for the game and advised that rules must be followed and that the opponents should be greeted "in our fashion".
The players were all too aware that this meant that they must give the N*zi salute before the game (I suspect that they also doubted the neutrality of the referee). No-one knows what discussions occurred in that dressing room but on the field, at the moment they were expected to give the salute the players instead brought their arms to their chests and shouted a Soviet slogan.
The game began, and as expected, the referee ignored blatant fouls by the German team. Despite this FC Start went in at half-time 2-1 up. Another SS Officer then entered the dressing room and explained that they must not win this match.
The game ended with FC Start winning 5-3, and, in a final humiliation for the German’s, an FC Start player rounded their goalkeeper and, with an open goal to kick the ball into, turned around and kicked it back towards the center of the pitch.
The player’s did not celebrate at the end of the game and there was chaos in the stands as guard dogs were loosed onto the Ukrainian crowd.
Revenge came slowly. FC Start played one more game (and won) but then German soldiers arrived at the bakery with a list of players. They were arrested,tortured and sent to a nearby labor camp. Three of the players escaped from the camp, the rest were either shot or "disappeared".
Of course history exaggerates the deeds of heroes for it’s own purpose and as one of the survivor’s said "The death of these players is no different to all the other deaths",and maybe he is right, but some deaths come to stand for more, and when modern athlete’s speak of "pressure situations" I think we need to keep it in context.
(Incidentally I can’t decide if it’s ironic that MLBlogs wn’t let me use the word N*zi).