“Había más de 3.000 personas en el aeropuerto. Salí del avión y no sabía lo que me iba a encontrar. Estaba nervioso, lo tengo que reconocer. Llegaba a un país muy distinto al nuestro, otro idioma, otra vida… ¡Qué difícil fue para mí! Me costó por lo menos un año adaptarme.” (There were more than 3000 people at the airport. I left the plane without knowing what was expected of me. I was nervous, I admit to that. I was arriving at a completely different country, a different language, a different life… It was very difficult for me! It took about a year before adapting.) – Rinat Dasaev
On the 21st of November, 1988, the best goalkeeper of the world, Rinat Dasaev, landed at the San Pablo airport in Seville, where more than 3000 Sevillistas were waiting to greet the 1.90m Soviet netminder, who was about to have his first and only stint away from his motherland.
Back in those days, Dasaev turn out to be one of the first Soviet top players to have crossed the Iron Wall after a long and successful stint with Spartak Moscow. Rinat had already turned 31 back then and pundits still claim today that he was miles away from his golden years, both with the Soviet national team and with Spartak Moscow. Sevilla FC supporters, however, weren’t by any means worried by Dasaev’s moment of form, as the only thing that mattered to them was the fact that the best goalkeeper in the world was at Andalusia to play for the Rojiblancos.
A Russian/Soviet player in Spanish football was quite an unusual scenario back in the late 1980s and, even before his arrival, the Sevillistas had named him as Rafaé, since they struggled to pronounce his name. In Spain, people also used to refer to him as ‘El Telón de Acero’ (The Iron Wall) and they tend to remember the fact that he arrived at Seville with his wife and his two daughters, but left, a few years later, with a Spanish woman on his arm, his current wife, whereas his first wife and daughter stayed in the country.
Dasaev had some peculiar moments while at Seville, but he is usually mostly remembered for the car crash in which he was involved and that caused him some severe injuries in his fingers. Rumours had it that he had two or maybe three car crashes in the exact same place, near the city’s university, but Dasaev still denies that to this day and he becomes seriously aggravated every time someone addresses that particular topic. Some stories also claim that he was out of money, living on his wife’s wage and that he was aware that Sevilla FC had no intention of keeping him around much longer, as they needed to get rid of a foreign player in order to register Ivan Zamorano. All these facts were allegedly causing great distress to Dasaev and all of them might have contributed to his peculiar car crash at the foso de la Universidad.
Dasaev was also known for a sports’ store, called Deportes Rinat Dassaev, that he had opened near Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, but that, similarly to his career in Spain, it ended up being an utter failure.
Dasaev took part in 59 matches with Sevilla, winning 25 of them and conceding 68 goals along the way. He had some ups and downs during his stint at Andalusia, but despite that major howler he conceded in a match against CD Logroñes in January 1989, he still managed to put up some quality performances. He failed, nevertheless, to become, once again, the superb goalkeeper he used to be back in his Spartak Moscow’s days and not even the huge deal of enthusiasm surrounding him, with kids constantly asking to take a photo with him before the matches at Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, was enough to lift up his morale.
Rinat Dasaev was the man that inspired me to become a goalkeeper back in my playing days a long time ago. I was constantly trying to copy his moves and I remember that more than once I asked the kit assistant if he could find me a yellow jersey, so I could feel like my goalkeeping “idol”. Dasaev was, despite the less positive moments, one of the best, if not the best goalkeeper of his generation, but his only stint away from the Soviet Union was nothing but unglamourous and, in a way, forced him to abandon football without the glory a footballer of his quality standards should have deserved.
Follow Joel Amorim on Twitter: @Vostok1981
Author: Joel Amorim
From Porto, I started enjoying Soviet football at a very young age when I would watch Rinat Dasaev on TV, but it was probably Radchenko’s brace and Shmarov’s goal at the Santiago Bernabéu a quarter of a century ago that transformed me into an avid consumer of what was going on with the game throughout Eastern Europe. Punk rock fan and English teacher by day, football writer after the sun goes down.