Nikolai Sokolov – The Founder of Russian Goalkeeping

Lev Yashin is considered perhaps the best to ever play football, but even before him, the Soviet Union has had a long line of great goalkeepers. One of these is Nikolai Sokolov, who both Nikolai Starostin in Football Stars and Anatoly Akimov in The Goalkeeper and his Role in the Team name as the founder of the Soviet goalkeeping school, which later gave birth to Yashin, Rinat Dasaev and many others. Sokolov was born in Moscow on May 12, 1897. At this time, football wasn’t a sport for Russians … [Read more...]

Poise, Persistence, Perfection – An Ode to Anatoliy Tymoshchuk

Football is filled with contentious personalities. Hard-man defenders, stroppy strikers and mercurial midfielders are as common within the game as corner flags and crossbars. It’s rare that a day passes within the sport without one or more of the participants creating controversy for the press and problems for their management. Which is why we are allowed to shed more than a few tears when a true gentleman of the sport hangs up his boots. These few good men keep our faith in the game alive. … [Read more...]

Vyacheslav Malafeev – The Last of the Local Lads

“My whole life at Zenit. My whole life in gloves” - the words of Vyacheslav Malefeev upon retiring from football last week neatly summarised the veteran goalkeeper’s life in football: all nineteen years of his professional career had been spent between the sticks at Zenit St. Petersburg. Cliches only serve to besmirch football writing, but it seems right to attach a few overused labels to Malafeev. He was a one-man club, something of an anomaly in modern football. With Zenit perhaps … [Read more...]

Anatoli Ilyin – The Golden Striker

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 … [Read more...]

‘Strelec’ in the GULAG: Eduard Streltsov’s Incarceration and Survival in the Vyatlag Archipelago

Curse of the Råsunda Råsunda Stadium in Stockholm – for many Russian football fans a name synonymous with mythic tales of what might have been for the national sport, and their star player, Eduard Anatoliyevich Streltsov the “Russian Pelé”. Like so many other would-be football superstars he was tragically robbed of his career and could even be recalled as the “Russian Duncan Edwards”. The 1958 World Cup was the watershed moment in Brazilian Pelé’s career, on 29 June the then … [Read more...]