At the age of 35, Ukraine captain Andriy Shevchenko played the first European Championship match of his illustrious, but increasingly forgotten career and he did it in his own hometown. It was widely assumed that he was only still leading the the national team at this advanced footballing age, years removed from his Ballon d'Or-winning prime and even his more recent years of expensive disappointment, as a last hurrah for a respected ambassador. But then Andriy Shevchenko scored both goals in Ukraine's 2-1 win over Sweden, putting him back on top once again, even if just for one more day.
From his glory days with Milan, where he was twice Italy's top scorer, to his steep fall with Chelsea, where he was the original Fernando Torres and cost a then British record £30 million for three years of belittling jokes, Sheva has always carried himself with a gentle dignity. For the last three years, his career has quietly kept on where it first started, Dynamo Kiev.
Shevchenko shattered that quiet that on the final day of the first group stage matches, though, toppling the younger Zlatan Ibrahimovic's efforts to carry the Swedes in much the same way. For a man who has scored more goals than most, he seemed just as surprised as everyone else that his headers twice found the back of the net after he put an early chance wide. After all, even Ukraine manager Oleg Blokhin has been ripping the lack of quality in his team to the press. But after the final whistle blew on disregarded Ukraine's first win in the first Euros they've ever appeared in (thanks to their co-host qualification exemption), an emotional Sheva was given a hero's ovation.
Shevchenko's life has been one of widely disparate experiences. When he was nine years old, his family had to abandon their home in the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. When he was 26, he met his wife, American model Kristen Pazik, at a Giorgio Armani afterparty. When he was with Milan, some called him the best in the world. When he was with Chelsea some mockingly called him the worst. Milan owner, former Italian prime minister and disgraced bunga-bunga ringleader Silvio Berlusconi is the godfather of his first child. All things considered, it seems only right that Shevchenko gets an all too perfect moment like this at the last gasp of his European career.
One person who will definitely remember the name Andriy Shevchenko is this little guy:
In case your memory of the game doesn't go back much farther than that ball of joy's, here are a few morsels of information I just made up about Shevchenko:
-His tears can heal a very mild case of the common cold.
-He likes to tell scary stories that aren't too scary.
-He once politely refused a "World's Greatest Dad" shirt from his kids because he couldn't prove that that was true.
-He cut his hair just so Wayne Rooney wouldn't be jealous.
-The dragon tattoo on his left arm was the sole inspiration for all other dragon tattoos both in real life and popular fiction.
-Has kitten CPR certification.