Team Ukraine head coach Alfonsine Williams prepares to face Belarus in first ever game

The national team of the Ukraine will be playing their first ever international game this weekend , October 14 in Kiev when they face Team Belarus and they are led by South Carolina State alum Alfonsine Williams.

This is a historic event so we asked Alfonsine about the game and how he ended up as coach of this brand new team. American football is a new sport in the Ukraine and the national league has only been in existence for a few years. The game against Belarus, scheduled for October 14 in Kiev is a first for the Ukrainian national team and their coach.

American Football International: How long have you been head coach of Team Ukraine?

Alfonsine Williams: This version of Team Ukraine is brand new, although its been in the works for a while. I was named head coach a few months ago, and have been preparing with the staff and the organizers ever since at a rapid pace to make sure we put a great football team on the field.

AFI: Tell us a little about your background in football.

Williams: I’ve been around the game my entire life as a student and as a player. My father had a brief stint in the NFL and in the CFL and was a high school coach in Maryland. Many of my memories involve breaking down film and being on the field with the players. I played my high school ball under coach Danny Hayes of Gwynn Park high school, and went on to South Carolina State University after that under coach Oliver “Buddy” Pough. I always considered myself more of a student of the game, and understood that the mental part of the game is just as important as the physical.

AFI: How long have you been coaching in the Ukraine?
Williams: I’ve been coaching just over two years now in Ukraine, both as an assistant with the Kyiv Bulldogs and now as head coach of the Kyiv Patriots and of course now with the National team.

AFI: What do you know about your opponent, Belarus?

Williams: I’ve coached against the staff and many of the players that will represent Belarus three times now. Obviously i cant know everything but i look forward to seeing them on the field again. That team is very disciplined and are great at making adjustments. They will test us both physically and mentally and we have to be prepared for that. they understand that football is a lot of little things done well, and those players believe in what their coaches tell them,and do as they are told. Its gonna be fun to match up with them.

AFI: How long do you intend to stay and work with football in the Ukraine?

Williams: As long as they will have me. I love the country , I love the sport, and really this is just the beginning. There are a lot of good things happening in Ukraine and I plan on doing my part and hopefully, contributing to the growth of not only the sport, but the country as well in other aspects. Whether it be via business ventures or impact within the community, I want to make a difference.

AFI: How much improvement have you seen since you arrived?

Williams: I came to Ukraine during the Maidan movement. A very controversial time, very tense time but also a very uplifting time for many. I’ve seen the streets change, the businesses grow,the bars and restaurants flourish and political regimes change. Ukraine is going through a renaissance so to speak and I’m glad to bare witness to it. In many ways Ukraine is really trying to find its place in the world just as Ukrainians are trying to find their place and what they stand for as a people. It’s exciting, and unlike many places in the world that seem to be standing still or even going backwards, Ukraine is moving forward. there are of course complications, hurdles, challenges etc. But those are all good problems to have in the name of progress.

AFI: How good can football be in that region of the world?

Williams: The amount of pure, raw talent here is insane. I would take these guys against any other region in the world and feel confident that we can compete at a high level. It’s all about competition here, our players want to compete, even our cheerleaders are competitive. right now its just a matter of organization, support, and awareness. The more games we are able to organize the better. the more support we get from fans, and sponsors and the government the more we will be able to show that the region, and Ukraine especially is ready to be seen internationally as a place where American football can strive.

I would like to add that it’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of this process and coach the National team of Ukraine. It really is about the players and their desire to represent their country and show the World what kind of athletes Ukraine has. It has not been easy, but great things never are. This is only the beginning and i hope that we get offers to play more teams no matter where they are, and that we are able to represent Ukraine in the manner in which it should be represented. I personally would like to thank the ULAF and its President Maksym Shylo, the Kyiv Patriots and General manager Yuriy.Gundich, and most importantly, all of the players for allowing me to be a part of this, and the coaches of the various teams and organizations throughout Ukraine. I will do my very best to represent them well.

Team Ukraine faces Belarus Saturday October 14.

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.