Monday, August 31, 2009

The Soviet Cup winners were another small club – Torpedo (Moscow). Generally, they ranked forth among Moscow clubs – behind Spartak, Dynamo, and CSKA, and above Lokomotiv. Occasionally, Torpedo won a title or a cup, but never were dominating Soviet football even briefly. The 1960s were good years for the small Torpedo, and the early 70s still preserved some of the strength.

Cup winners, but not really noticeable team – only the captain Vadim Nikonov was considered promising player in 1972. He never became a star. Good for the small boys, though. The unusual and different winners of Soviet tournaments in the beginning of the 70s was more sigh of a deep crisis than improvement. By 1972 Soviet football was similar to Italian, yet bleaker. As in Italy, most games ended in scoreless draws. Contrary to Italy, it was not a result of ultradefensive schemes, but a result of scared calculations – a draw brought a point, a win – two points. It was the universal point system then, and collecting point after point was rewarding enough. Nobody really played to win and the safest strategy to squirrel a point was not to show any ambition to score a goal – thus, by silent agreement, everybody was simply killing the time. Desire to score was dangerous – the opposition immediately sensed treachery, and after they begin attacking who knows what may happen… better just to kick the ball around innocently. It was this mentality which at the end reduced sharply the quality, never very high anyway, of Soviet football and made possible for smaller clubs to win titles and cups. May be this mentality also helped the shift from Moscow to the South – southern clubs, technically superior, managed to score the occasional goal, whether the clumsier Moscow players failed, and thus the southerners collected more points by the virtue of handful of wins. The problem became so huge, the Federation eventually tackled it by introducing a limit of draws, not giving points for scoreless matches, and shoot-outs after draws, providing one point for the winner and zero for the loser. Nothing worked – the clubs were tricky: as soon as scoreless draws were not bringing points, the teams started quickly to score a goal to each other in the first minutes of the match, going to sleep immediately after that. Limit of draws was also found useful in perverse way – to lull opposition into collecting draws over the permitted limit was basically to deprive them of points. Amazingly, Soviet football became anti-football. From this perspective winners like Zarya and Torpedo were just the opposite of improvement and excitement.
Thanks to Igor Nedbaylo for all Stadion photos!
And strangely enough - this blog started one full year ago.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Portugal and Belgium maintained position at the top of the middle group of championships – but nothing new there: Benfica and Anderlecht both made doubles, but Benfica was declining and Anderlecht did not emerged yet as strong club internationally. France remained the same too – pleasant football, nothing special… Olympique Marseille dominated the scene, winning both the championship and the cup. The Soviets? About the hidden bribery scandal you can read in the early posting. Thanks to it, Zarya (Voroshilovgrad) ended champions.
The clubs’s logo back in 1972. Today is different, as well as the country is different, the name of the club, and the name of their home town – it is Zorya (Lugansk, Ukraine). Back to Soviet days, though:
In his 2007 interview the coach German Zonin vigorously negated the bribery story – according to him, Zarya won the title fair and square. Zonin’s denial is understandable – there is no coach to admit bribery. Besides, this is the only title Zonin won in his long career. So, what is true? Small clubs, with good, even not outstanding squads, occasionally win titles. As a rule, such surprising winners never repeat their success, quickly sinking to familiar mediocrity. It is well traveled path: big clubs immediately snatch whatever talent emerged in the small club, and the winning team is shattered. From this standpoint, Zonin appears truthful… unless one reads between the lines. Zonin praised the Communist satrap of Voroshilovgrad at the time: the City’s Party Secretary ‘cared a lot for the sports’ and ‘supported the club with everything’. It is more than likely the Party boss went much wider in his support – making deals with other Party secretaries, who in turn ‘influenced’ the clubs in their domains to give a point or two. Money – or other things – went along. A coach did not have to be involved. He even did not have to know – such things were arranged on Party level, and were typical in Communist Eastern Europe. But there is another interesting detail: Zonin blamed Dynamo (Kiev) for the immediate decline of Zarya – they took two key players, Onishchenko and Vyacheslav Semenov. No real fuss over Onishchenko, for he was originally Dynamo player and going back was understandable. Semenov, according to Zonin, was another story – vastly talented, the coach claims, he was very important to Zarya. Dynamo not only did not need him, but actually ruined him during his short stay in Kiev. So far – the typical small club story… except: Kiev, as republican centre, ‘naturally’ takes the cream of the whole of Ukraine. No way for small club saving their good players – bigger and more powerful Communist bosses order the smaller fry and that’s was that. Dynamo took only two players from Zarya, one of them originally a Dynamo player anyway. The second – not needed and benched. This largely means Zarya did not really have interesting players – rather, run of the mill squad. Confirmed by other evidence: some players, Semenov included, briefly played for the national/Olympic Soviet squad. Very briefly and only at the time when Zonin himself was assistant coach of the Olympic team. Only Onishchenko became a real star and constant national player – but playing for Dynamo (Kiev). Nobody else impressed and lasted. Zarya players were not interesting for other clubs – no Moscow club wanted them, not Dynamo (Kiev), not even the second big Ukrainian club – Shakter (Donetzk). Apart from Onishchenko, only the goalkeeper Alexander Tkachenko built good reputation – eventually not only playing for many years, but moving to Zenith (Leningrad). Yet, even this transfer is suspect: it happened when Zonin coached Zenith, which was not at all big club at that time. Zarya were obviously good by the standards of small clubs; the squad had good chemistry, reaching their peak in 1972, but hardly superior team even then. Muddy the bribery story may be, as such stories ever go, but very likely. More than likely. Nevertheless, nothing was said at the time, the title stands. Which at the end makes briberies irrelevant – at least in terms of historic record and largely by the history of the club. Champions. Once. Once upon a time.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Clearly the excitement was not in the South. Perhaps some of the middle range countries improved? Holland? Well, Ajax won everything possible in 1972 – Dutch champions and cup winners, European Champions Cup winners, Supercup winners, Intercontinental Cup winners… truly, 1972 was the best year Ajax ever had: total football – total domination. May be the whole of the Dutch football leaped forward? Not really… take a look at the Dutch Cup finalists:

The club from the capital, ADO Den Haag, were… well, just a small club. Aad Mansveld occasionally played for the national team. Ton Thie was relatively respected player in Holland. The two Swedish players – Augustsson and Berg – were fairly obscure. Dick Advocaat? The famous coach and the player have nothing in common – same person, but the player nobody ever heard of. ADO Den Haag were far away from Ajax and total football. True, they put a fight at the Cup final, but lost nevertheless. As finalists, they played in the Cup Winners Cup in 1972-73 edition of the tournament – and expired early, without notice. Total football was exceptional and Holland was not going to become superpower on club level.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Cup went to Atletico (Madrid). Contrary to their city rivals, the ‘Mattress makers’ were in their most successful period. Alas, only domestically – the general decline of Spanish football affected them as well.

Any recognizable name? Perhaps Irureta… perhaps Adelardo… perhaps Ufarte… chances are only Atletico fan can faintly recognize some players. Club legends, surely… and nothing more.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spain. Real Madrid recovered their ‘rightful’ place – champions after few lean years, but hardly impressive. Tough team, yet a far cry from the glorious team of the 50s and early 60s.
Some established stars, like Grosso and Zoco; some younger strong talent, like Amancio and Santillana. Strong team, but no more than that. Mostly for Spanish consumption and perhaps the team at the lowest point by Real standards. The 1970s were dark years for the club.

Thanks to Igor Nedbaylo for the image!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Milan won the Italian Cup. Familiar name, familiar team. Catenaccio – still alive and kicking. Perhaps Milan’s win obscured the potential of Juventus – Italy was traditional, no matter what happens in the world, field five defenseman… and win by one goal scored. Tremendously boring by 1972. And Rivera was no longer 20-years old…
The team was aging – Trapattoni (yes, the same one), the Argentine with French citizenship Nestor Combin, Cudicini, Rosato were at their end. Not to mention Rivera. Hardly worthy replacement in sight to any of them. The red flag was really flashing in the heart of defense – Schnellinger was not invited to the West German national team after 1970. He was key player for Milan, but useless for the European Champions – and the difference between Beckenbauer’s manner of playing and Schnellinger’s was as big as between day in night in 1972. Milan’s Cup was more or less a last gasp of old 60’s football.
Thanks to Igor Nedbaylo for the photo.

Monday, August 17, 2009

England was England – unpredictable as ever. Meantime the South was the South: predictable as ever. After the brief stir of the previous two years, everything went back to the same old ‘normal’. Kind of. In Italy Juventus won the title. So far ‘The Old Lady’ was the only big Italian club not winning anything internationally. The club won Scudetto for the first time after 1967, which was thrilling for suffering fans, but – on the surface – hardly a change in Italy.

Since Juventus did represent a change, it was not noticed that the club was actually ahead of the other Italian clubs – and on its road to domineer late 1970s and the 1980s. The team consisted of stars, of course, but somewhat secondary stars by Italian measures, where Mazzola and Rivera were the highest mark. Juve players were younger too – the team itself came to ripeness a few years later, but there was already good foundation for the future. Naturally, Capelo is the most famous name from 2009 standpoint – the famous coach. He was not the most impressive feature of the 1972 team, though: to my mind the most interesting part was the attack. The (West) German star Helmut Haller, the already impressive Anastasi, and the young Roberto Bettega. For Italian team, too many attackers. All of them centre forwards, but easily adapting their skills to the wings too. Heavy competition between three generations. Add the World champion with Brazil (1958) Jose Altafini and there was formidable attack line, well balanced in age and experience, and competing for titular place in the fielded squad. No other Italian club had so strong attacking choices. No other club had selection providing for gradual painless replacement of aging stars – Haller was to step down in a year, but Bettega really matured by 1978. Anastasi was rapidly becoming the leader of the attack and Altafini – dangerous reserve, coming in the second half to torture opposite defense. Juventus had variety, flexibility, and choice. They had money too – new players were added effortlessly, making the team stronger and stronger. More or less, Juventus made easy transition from one generation to the next – something Milan and Inter were unable to do. This was new, but it was realized few years later. Juventus were still heavily defensive team, but with younger players, they were able to adopt some elements of total football. 1972 was only the beginning.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Football League Cup – different animal. Just to show the many-faced and competitive English football – Stoke City won the final, beating Chelsea 2-1. Stoke City were not among league’s favourites. Chelsea too were not as great as at least 5 other clubs. The beauty of cup tournaments – David wins over Goliath. One name at least was huje: Gordon Banks. Typical for that time – the superstar goalkeeper, perhaps the best in the world, played for small club. It was nice to know Banks won a cup. Soon misfortune stroke the great goalkeeper – he lost an eye in car accident, his career in England was over.
4th row, left to right: Mike Bernard, Alan Bloor, Mike Pejic
3rd row: Jimmy Greenhoff, Gordon Banks
2nd row: Tony Waddington (manager), George Eastham, John Marsh, John Mahoney
1st row: Terry Conroy, Peter Dobing, John Ritchie, Denis Smith

Well, hardly famous squad. Some fairly decent players – Conroy, Mahoney. Some promise, never fully developed – Greenhoff. And surprising national player in the near future – the guy with Yugoslavian name, Pejic, eventually played few games for England. They proudly display the FL Cup, though.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Cup. Well, England has two cups – the F.A. Cup, the oldest tournament in the world, and the Football League Cup. Sometimes English writers place the FL Cup higher than the F.A. Cup. Sometimes it is the opposite. UEFA recognizes F.A. Cup as the national cup. Leeds met Arsenal at the final and won 1-0. Cup mattered back then. For Leeds it was also sweeter ending of the season, after losing the title by a point.
By names, much better team than Derby County. By ambitions too. By expectations also. Yet, a cup, not a title.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bundesliga was obviously becoming exciting championship, but only claiming a place among the big European championships. England pretended nothing: just keeping its reputation of most interesting domestic football. Great competition, where no club was able to win two titles in a row and pre-season predictions hardly worked: every year – new champion. Manchester United was decaying, but with strong Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham, and Leeds, there were plenty of potential champions. None of which got the coveted title… Derby County finished first with 58 points, followed by Leeds, Liverpool, and Manchester City with 57 points each. Tough. Exciting. So very British. How not to love this championship?

Rams on top! One Brian Clough coached them – a name to remember.

Interesting, but hardly winning squad at first glance. Yet, the coach and some players will conquer Europe by the end of the 1970s. With different club, freshly relegated to Second Division in 1972. And one more point – Colin Todd. Perhaps the best central English central defenseman in the 1970s, but rarely included in the national team.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The West German football was in very good shape indeed – along with Borussia and Bayern, Schalke 04 was seemingly becoming a third extremely promising club: they finished second in the Bundesliga and won the Cup in 1972. Alas, the bribing scandal of 1971 cut short their challenge – investigations went well into 1972 and penalties were announced practically at the end of this season. Arminia (Bielefeld) were stripped from their points and relegated (they were to be relegated even without penalty, finishing last anyway). Players were suspended – many of them were Schalke 04 players, and although the suspensions were not long, the team was destroyed. The Cup was the last trophy Schalke 04 won for very, very long time.
Under their Yugoslavian coach Ivica Horvat the Blues were to be the third great German club. Well, no luck.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Kaiser Franz led his teammates to the West German title, three points above Schalke 04. Bayern scored 101 goals in the championship, 40 of which belonged to Gerd Muller. He was far above the rest of the goalscorers – Klaus Fischer (Schalke 04) was second with only 22 goals. Yet, Bayern, with their superior attack were overwhelming champions – their defense was second best. Schalke 04 had better home record than the Bavarians too. These two clubs fought for the title, leaving the rest far behind – Borussia (Moenchengladbach) finished third, but 9 points behind Schalke 04. However, their captain Gunter Netzer was voted West German footballer of the year. Bayern were becoming superclub – the core of team, built by Zlatko Cajkovski remained, finely tuned by Udo Lattek, younger coach who was to be one of the best coaches of the 1970s. The team added young players like Hoeness and Breitner. Bayerns’s policy was also taking shape: it was somewhat between this of Ajax and the traditional superclub policies – Bayern depended on their youth system and bought, so far, relatively cheap foreign players. But unlike Ajax, players were not bought just because they were cheap – Bayern looked for players to fill in positions where the team lacked strength – the Dane Hansen came to play right back, for instance. Not to keep the bench of reserves warm. Bayern also spent money on established players – never spending outlandish amounts, though. This careful financial policy of never spending neither too much, nor too little, made soon Bayern the European giant they are still today.

Champions in 1972. This line-up remained during the glorious years of the Bavarians. With the years only fine additions were made.
Back, left to right: Krauthausen, U. Hoeness, Hansen, Roth, G. Muller, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer, Udo Lattek – coach.
Front: Hoffmann, Zobel, Maier, Breitner.

Monday, August 3, 2009

No mystery in Europe – Franz Beckenbauer was voted the Player of the Year.

The great rivalry Cruiff or Beckenbauer was established… well, who was best? The attacker or the defenseman? It is futile… but really: Ajax won every possible cup in 1972. West Germany won the European title without any Dutch seen around. Club football or national teams competitions? And what is this attack versus defense? Neither Cruiff was traditional attacker, nor Beckenbauer traditional defenseman. However unjust, the choice was just – Beckenbauer was on the top world scene since 1966. Cruiff – only a club star so far. Beckenbauer was great in 1972. Was he the greatest? Who cares… voting is never truly objective. Nothing is ever really objective. Impasse. And somehow it is clear why Beckenbauer was number one in 1972.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

In 1972 South American Footballer of the Year went to Teofilo Cubillas. Cubillas is probably the best Peruvian player of all time, but still it is hard to figure out why he was awarded. Cubillas still played for Alianza (Lima), which is perhaps the biggest club in Peru, but at least internationally it was not a success. Alianza’s rival Universitario reached the Libertadores Cup final, but this is no reason for voting Cubillas. Since the event is distant now and South American football was hardly featured in early 1970s Europe, the election of Cubillas is enigma to me. It could have been inertia of the surprisingly strong performance of Peru at World Cup 1970. It could have been strong season of the player. Something does not much, though – Cubillas moved to Europe in 1973, but not to big club – he went to Switzerland. His teammate in the national squad, who is not considered the best ever Peruvian player, but a drunk – Hugo Sotil – was the very first purchase Barcelona made after the Spanish Federation lifted the ban on foreign players. The mystery remains, but it is insightfull to know that the King of Football was not worthy for this award already a second year. Something like a Brazilian crisis perhaps? Something like Uruguayan decline? Something like an Argentine wrong direction? Something like Chileans been eternal wannabes? Something like… non existent Colombians, despite having Alfredo di Stefano playing for them once upon a time?
Questions are questions, but Teofilo Cubillas was great player. Overall, if not that particular year.
Cubillas (on the ground) scoring against Morocco (I think) at World Cup 1970. Since I don’t really know why he was voted Footballer of the Year in 1972, he better stays on his bottom – I want to keep the mystery.