Monday, May 23, 2011

If Lokomotiv shined at the beginning of the year, the happy names at the end were different: Dynamo (Minsk) and Krylya Sovetov (Kuybyshev) finished first and second in the Second Division and moved up to the First. Good for them, yet, little to brag about.
Neither club was a fresh name – both were rather returnees from ‘exile’.
The Belarussian club was old by Soviet standards - founded in 1927 – and normally played premier league football. The best way to describe it is ‘modest’ – their highest achievements were finishing at 3rd place twice, in 1954 and 1963, and reaching the Cup final once, in 1965. Winning was not their forte and eventually Dynamo entered the slippery slopes at the bottom of the league, sometimes surviving, sometimes not and going down to the Second Division. Now they were returning after one year spell in the lower regions, but did not look candidates for greatness at all.
First row, left to right: S. Korbut, V. Kurnev, G. Voronin, A. Baydachny, I. Grigoriev, B. Belous, A. Grebnev, S. Borovsky.
Second row: L. Adamov – assistant coach, A. Gorbylev – chief of the team, E. Goryansky – coach, M. Vergeenko, V. Girko, I. Timofeev, A. Prokopenko, A. Bogovik – captain, V. Shvetzov, V. Slovak, A. Mosin, G. Bortkevich – team’s doctor.
Second division clubs hardly possess famous players and this squad is no exemption. Their coach Evgeny Goryansky is perhaps the biggest name here, but Anatoly Baydachny must be mentioned as well – not long ago he was playing for Dynamo (Moscow) and the national team. However, it is not his own plummeting interesting here, but the fate of clubs like his current one. As all clubs named ‘Dynamo’, the Minsk version was part of the large pyramid ‘Dynamo Sports Society’, belonging to the Ministry of the Interior (KGB and the regular Police). Dynamo (Moscow) was the very top of it, but down the ranks was no so simple: normally, the top was able to get whatever they wanted, the rest of the pyramid existing largely as a supplier. But USSR was a federal state and some clubs – Dynamo (Kiev) as a prime example – were increasingly seen as a representatives of their republics, with heavy support and scheming coming from local Party quarters. Thus, Kiev was not simply Dynamo (Moscow) helper. To a point, Dynamo (Minsk) was not either, but only to a point, for it was commandeered by Belarussian boss of Police, and not by the Communist Party boss, and remained closer to the bosom of the ‘mother club’. Closeness is both a blessing and a curse: Minsk was calling up for help and receiving some – players, no longer needed in Moscow. Baydachny arrived this way and he was soon followed by others. But it was not one-way road - if Dynamo (Moscow) needed some player from Minsk, they just got it. There was nothing to negotiate – it was simply generals ordering colonels, a routine procedure not open for discussion. To evaluate the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ about clubs like Dynamo (Minsk) is almost impossible: there are players, who are not good enough for big clubs, but become key figures in smaller ones. Some players dispatched from Moscow were of this kind and Minsk benefited from them. But, in general, a big club ‘helps’ a smaller one only with unneeded players, meaning they are not really good anyway for one or another reason (permanently injured, out of form, aging, undisciplined, lazy, etc.) A lot of ‘dead meet’ arrived to Minsk as well. But pyramid structures are dangerous by definition: it is something like a system of farm-clubs in North American sports. Whoever the ‘real’ club needs immediately moves to the ‘centre’ – which permanently prevents smaller clubs from building strong teams and performing with consistency. At the end, such clubs even stop developing homegrown talent, for there is no point – the top will get it immediately. It is true that Belarus did not breed a lot of talented players, and it is true that Minsk mostly benefited from players sent from Moscow, but it seems also true that the club had meager existence because of its structural subordination. Up they went in 1975… kind of.