Anatoli Ilyin – The Golden Striker

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Anatoli Ilyin was a true Soviet football hero.

On Thursday, February 11, the 84-year-old Anatoli Ilyin left our world. Perhaps you have never heard about him, but he was a football icon in the Soviet Union and especially at Spartak during the 1950’s. The Red-Whites owes much of their reputation Ilyin, who scored many important goals during his career. In 1956 for example, he scored the winning goal in the final of the Olympic Games in Melbourne against the rival Yugoslavia, a goal that earned him the title Master of Sport of the USSR. In Igor Netto’s book “This is football”, Netto, the captain of the team, said:

“The last game against the team of Yugoslavia took, as always, place on the closing day of the Olympic games. It was solemn and festive. The entire city of Melbourne rushed to the stadium [Note: over 86,000 spectators watched the game]. The Olympic flags were floating. Our game against Yugoslavia was the last act.

Of course, we were in a fighting mood. We were impatient to finish this great competition with a success. It seemed to me that the match was a success for both teams. It was a duel worthy of the Olympic Games with a high level. It was a good game. For a long time, our team or the Yugoslavs managed to dominate the other. The pace was high. It came to an end in the 50th minute. We were attacking. Anatoly Yatsev intercepted the ball with the head, and immediately centered to his partner Anatoly Ilyin who sent the ball into the goal. It all happened so quick. The score was 1:0! Subsequently, this goal was called golden goal. He brought victory”.

It was the golden age of football in USSR. Alongside Ilyin played some of the country’s greatest football players in Igor Netto, Lev Yashin, Nikita Simonyan, Eduard Streltsov, Aleksei Paramonov and the list went on.

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Anatoli Ilyin on the right during a match for the Soviet national team. Source:


Before becoming the Olympic hero in 1956, Ilyin took part in the 1952 games in Helsinki, but he only played the first match against Bulgaria before he was injured. This saved him some of the embarrassment, as the tournament eventually ended in a fiasco with the Sbornaya being eliminated by the arch rivals from Yugoslavia.

In 1958, he became historic as he scored the Soviet selection’s first ever World Cup playoff goal, as he secured the victory against England. Thanks to that goal, Ilyin and his teammates advanced to the quarterfinals. This would however turn out to be the end as Sweden were too strong and won 2-0.

During his entire career, the striker played 31 games for the national team and scored 16 goals. But who was he outside of the national team?

A life in red and white

Born in Moscow on June 27 in 1931, Ilyin began to play football for a team in the famous Gorky Park. In 1945, he joined the youth team Pichtchvik of Moscow, which was led by the former Spartakovtsys Ivan Ryjov and Gabriel Putshivin. He later moved to Trudovye Rezervy where he began playing as an attacking midfielder.

It was at there he was spotted by Spartak. In 1948, Pyotr Isakov, an important person at Spartak at the time discovered the 17-year-old talent, and Ilyin began his journey towards stardom.

Ilyin started with the young reserves, but already in the summer of 1949, he participated in his first games for the first team. He was then used as a striker, and during his 224 games in the red and white jersey, he went so score 83 goals before retiring in 1962.

During his 13 years with Spartak, he won five Soviet championships (1952, 1953, 1956, 1958 and 1962), he became the top scorer in the Soviet league twice (1954 and 1958), and he won the Soviet Cup twice (1950 and 1958).

Spartak team in 1959 (

Spartak team in 1959 (

As a key player for Spartak in the 1950’s, he repeatedly showed his teammates that he was a friendly, helpful and unselfish man despite the competitive environment in which he found himself. Sometimes he was perhaps even too nice. Ilyin’s legendary teammate Nikita Simonyan has later said:

During the final of the USSR Cup in 1958 against Torpedo there was still 10 minutes until the end of the second

Anatoliy Ilyin playing for Spartak. Source:

Anatoliy Ilyin playing for Spartak. Source:

half and the score was 0-0. We attacked, Ilyin and me, and instead of going through to score, he passed the ball to me. I lost the beat and missed the opportunity. Oh, what I get then from Netto for having missed the opportunity [laughs]. But in the extra time, I scored the winning goal thanks to a pass from Anatoly Konstantinovich Isaev.

After retiring from top level football, Ilyin coached the youth teams at the Spartak Academy, where he stayed until 1996. His death was grieved by the whole club, both players, staff and supporters. In honor of Ilyin’s memory, it has been decided to hold a ceremony at Spartak’s Otkritie Arena before the first league game in March. The club proposed to the Russian Federation to participate in the organization of the funeral ceremony, and this decision was appreciated by all the veterans of Spartak.

Follow Vincent on Twitter: @Spartak_M_VT

Author: Vincent Tanguy

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