Date of birth: 22 October 1929 (died: 20 March 1990)
Lev Yashin, famous for always wearing all-black when playing,
is arguably the greatest goalkeeper the world has ever seen. He played
22 seasons for Dinamo Moscow, the only club he ever represented, winning
five league championships and three cup championships.
Lev Yashin made an unprecedented contribution to the game, setting the
modern standards for goalkeeping. Being a great athlete in addition to
all his courage, he was among the first goalkeepers to command the entire
penalty area and did it with unmatched confidence and reliability.
He was equally impressive on the goalline with stunning
reflexes and plasticity which made him nearly flawless. Most notably,
he confronted the common attitude of catching the ball, inventing various
ways of simply kicking it away from the penalty area when required.
Yashin was the first choice goalkeeper for the Soviet Union from 1954
to 1967. In that spell he won 78 caps and played in three World Cups 1958,
1962 and finally 1966, where the Soviet Union reached the semifinal much
thanks to Yashins contribution. In 1956 he was a member of the Soviet
Unions team who won the olympics in Melbourne, and four years later
he won the European championships.
One of the proudest moments in his career was when he won the European
Player of the Year award in 1963. He still remains the only goalkeeper
to have won that prize. He retired 41 years old playing against a team
of European stars in 1971 having kept 270 clean sheets and he is also
rumoured to have saved over 150 penalties in his long career.
Lev Yashin (also spelled "Yachine") is the most famous goalkeeper
of all times all around the world, the true legend of football. He made
an unprecedent contribution to the game, setting the modern standards
and still being unreachable in his unique talent. He was among the first
goalkeepers to play outside the goalkeeper's and even the penalty area,
doing it with unmatched confidence and reliability. Playing inside the
goal, he was perfectly capable of covering every corner of it, having
a stunning reaction and plasticity. And most notably, he confronted the
then common attitude of catching the ball, inventing various ways of simply
kicking it away of the penalty area.
Lev Ivanovich Yashin played for the Moscow Dinamo (1948 - 1970)
and USSR National teams (1954 - 1967). He was born on October
22, 1929, in Moscow, in the family of industry workers. In 1942 he started
to work himself as a turner at the "Krasnyi bogatyr" tools factory
in Moscow. His first coach was I.Shubin from the factory's children football
team, where he started playing in 1944. In 1949 a football and ice-hockey
coach A.I.Chernyshov invited him to the Moscow Dinamo club, were Yashin
played 22 seasons.
Yashin holds Dinamo's record of the games played in USSR championships
- 326. Together with the team, he won the champions title in 1954, 1955,
1957, 1959 and 1963, silver medals in 1956, 1958, 1962, 1967 and 1970,
bronze - in 1960. He was the USSR Cup winner in 1953, 1967 and 1970. In
1960, 1963 and 1966 he was awarded the prestigious "Ogonyok"
magazine prize for the best goalkeeper of the USSR. Yashin was listed
among 33 best players of the season 17 times, of which 14 times he was
the Number One choice.
With the USSR National team Yashin played 78 games (70 goals conceded).
He was the champion of Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1958, European Cup
winner in 1960 and runner-up in 1964, participated three World Championships
- 1958 in Sweden, 1962 in Chile and 1966 in England, where USSR took 4th
In 1963 Lev Yashin was named the best European player by the "France
Football" weekly. He is the only goalkeeper awarded with this "Golden
Ball" award. In total, he kept his goal untouched in 270 games. In
1988, he was awarded the gold medal of the Olympic Order.
In 1971 in Moscow the last game of Lev Yashin took place: Moscow Dinamo
played against European stars team. In 1986 the knee injury led to the
amputation of the leg. Lev Yashin died on March 20, 1990 after the surgery
The first known photo of Lev Yashin (second from
Fisrt time Lev Yashin appeared in the start line-up
of Moscow "Dinamo" on July 6, 1950. Yashin spent his entire
career with "Dinamo", - such a faithfulness partially
can be explained by the fact that transfers between the top clubs
were greatly discouraged. Especially it was true for clubs like
"Dinamo", which belonged to the Interior Ministry: Lev
Ivanovich was formally a police officer.
During Yashin's era, games between the arch-rivalsof
Russian football, Moscow clubs "Spartak" and "Dinamo",
always were sold out. "Spartak" was generally more successful:
in 1949-1970 they won 6 Championship titles against "Dinamo"'s
5, and 4 USSR Cups against 3 for "Dinamo".
Moscow "Dinamo" traditionally had strong
goalkeepers - Yashin replaced in "Dinamo"'s goal the famous
Aleksei "the Tiger" Khomich, earning a handful of nicknames
of his own. "The Lion" was the meaning of his given name
for Russians, and for others he was known as "the Black Spider".
Yashin always was managing the defensive game
of his team, so fierce that even his wife accused him of yelling
too much at the pitch; however he hardly ever captained teams -
to appoint a goalkeeper as a captain is a relatively new custom.
The great athlete, possessing an extraordinary reactions and courage,
Yashin is said to save more than 150 penalties during his career.
With him in between the posts, the USSR National team achieved the
best results in their history, winning the Olympic Games in 1958,
the European Cup in 1960 and taking the 4th place in the World cup
Although dubbed "the greatest goalkeeper",
Yashin was not flawless, and actually conceded more goals per game
than any national team level goalkeeper nowadays. The World Cup
in 1962 in Chile was particularly embarrassing for the Soviet team:
quite surprisingly, Yashin let in a number of easy goals and USSR
did not advance further than the second round. However, one must
keep in mind that those days the defence was not the strongest line,
while it was not unusual for teams to play with 3 forwards.
Legends of Russian football: Eduard Streltsov,
Lev Yashin and Igor Netto (left to right) line up for a qualification
game for WC-1958. Streltsov did not play in Sweden because he was
sentenced for seven years of labor camps for an alleged sexual assault;
and Netto played only one game in the final stage of WC-1958 because
of the severe knee injury.
1st USSR world cup team 1958. Yahsin is in the
bottom row, third from the left.
1967: Yashin holds the USSR Cup trophy.
After the farewell game in 1971, Yashin is carried
by team-mates Murtaz Khurtsilava (left) and Vladimir Pilgui (right).
Sharing experience with Rinat Dassaev - the world's
best goalkeeper in 1988 (left) and Dmitry Kharin (right).
Yashin, the impregnable Spider
There are relatively few players whose sheer
brilliance have helped revolutionise the game of football, but former
Russia No1 Lev Yashin is unquestionably one of them. Pre-Yashin,
goalkeepers routinely spent the 90 minutes waiting patiently between
the sticks to be called into action, with the former Soviet Union
stalwart one of the first custodians to stamp his authority on the
entire defensive third.
For Yashin, mere shot-stopping was not enough: he was constantly
barking orders at his defenders, coming off his line to intercept
crosses and charging out to meet onrushing attackers, thus commanding
his penalty area with real aplomb. The Moscow native attributed
his success, in part, to his hatred of conceding goals.
"What kind of a goalkeeper is the one who is not tormented
by the goal he has allowed?" he said. "He must be tormented!
And if he is calm, that means the end. No matter what he had in
the past, he has no future.
Yashin was not just a great keeper, but also one of the biggest
characters the sport has ever seen. Bursting on to the world football
scene at the 1958 FIFA World Cup Sweden™, the first to be broadcast
internationally thanks to the Soviet satellite Sputnik II, Yashin’s
popularity grew rapidly thanks to his imposing displays and abundant
charisma. Dressed head to toe in black and able to smother even
the fiercest of efforts, his nickname of the 'Black Spider' only
enhanced his iconic status.
The ascent of a icon
Born in Moscow on 22 October 1929, Lev Ivanovich Yashin was still
a young boy come the outbreak of the Second World War. Even so,
by the age of 12 he had been drafted in to work in the munitions
industry, though this at least gave him the chance to shine for
the factory’s football team. His agility soon caught the eye of
Dinamo Moscow, who brought the youngster into their junior side
in 1949. This would be the start of Yashin’s love affair with Dinamo,
his one and only club with whom he would play over 300 first-team
games, claiming four Soviet titles and two USSR Cup successes, before
retiring in 1971.
But it was in the black goalkeeper’s jersey of the former Soviet
Union that Yashin gained worldwide fame, over the course of 75 caps
earned between 1954 and 1970. And it was no coincidence that his
time guarding his nation's goal coincided with their golden footballing
era, a period which included victory at the Men's Olympic Football
Tournament Melbourne 1956, the 1960 European Championship in France
and impressive outings at three FIFA World Cups.
Having reached the quarter-finals at both Sweden 1958 and Chile
1962, Soviet Union went one better by finishing fourth at England
1966 – their best finals’ performance to date. Though he travelled
with the squad to Mexico 1970, Yashin was no longer first choice
and failed to make an appearance, leaving his FIFA World Cup statistics
at 13 games and four clean sheets.
So great was the esteem Yashin was held in at
the time, scoring a goal past him became a genuine badge of honour.
“We were 2-1 down when the ref awarded us a penalty," recalled
ex-England winger Tom Finney on his showdown with the great man
in the first round of Sweden 1958. "I went to take it and there
was Yashin in goal. He was an incredible keeper and used to stop
a lot of penalty kicks, while he was also an intimidating figure,
dressed all in black."
“I decided to shoot with my weaker right foot because I knew that
he had seen me taking penalties with my left. And I scored! I tricked
Yashin!” added Finney, understandably elated at outwitting a man
estimated to have saved an astonishing 150 spot-kicks during his
Such was the thrill of a penalty save to Yashin that he commented:
“The joy of seeing Yuri Gagarin flying in space is only superseded
by the joy of a good penalty save.”
Peculiar pre-game prep
One of the former Soviet Union’s most famous figures during the
Cold War period, Yashin’s performances and personality sparked enormous
curiosity across the globe. Yet, if we are to believe the player
himself, his recipe for big-game success was unorthodox to say the
least. “The trick is to smoke a cigarette to calm your nerves and
then take a big swig of strong liquor to tone your muscles.”
Whether that was indeed his secret or not, Yashin was able to heighten
recognition of the goalkeeper’s art even during a period when lethal
goalscorers such as Eusebio and Alfredo Di Stefano were at the peak
of their powers. Underlining his impact was victory in the 1963
Ballon d’Or, awarded to the European player of the year, with the
‘Black Spider’ still the only keeper to have claimed the prestigious
That was by no means the only honour bestowed on him during his
life, with Yashin, who passed away in 1990, also receiving the former
Soviet Union’s highest distinction, the Order of Lenin, in 1968.
His farewell game in 1971 was played out in front of 100,000 fans
and featured the likes of Pele, Eusebio and Franz Beckenbauer, while
over time his name has grown ever more synonymous with excellence
between the sticks.
So much so that the award for the finest custodian at each FIFA
World Cup, an honour introduced in 1994, carries his name. Yet further
proof, if it were needed, that since Yashin the position of goalkeeper
has never been the same.