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.