Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Olympic Games kind of confirmed the end of individuals, if anybody cared to follow the tournament. By 1976 Olympic football was losing its attractiveness even for the Socialist countries. In the West it was considered the domain of East Europe states and their ‘amateurs’ – it was not important to follow tainted and hardly entertaining competition. It was a sham, confirmed once again just by looking at the Soviet roster: 10 players were listed as university students (8 of them attending Physical Education departments – the usual bogus education for Eastern European sportsmen); 1 was listed as just graduated from University; 1 was a military man, but unclear was he a soldier or an officer; 1 was ‘technician’; and 4 – ‘educators’. The last group was especially murky in defining – school teachers? College instructors? University professors? Or just sports instructors in some factory? It was all bogus, so it did not matter really – the most suspect part was the case of the two CSKA players in the squad: since it was the club of the Army, normally players were militarized and given officer’s ranks. Astapovsky was listed as army man, but Nazarenko was listed as university student. Students excepted, no one else was probably even aware of his ‘profession’ – and, please, don’t ask where was their ‘working place’. But this was familiar for a long time and not even curious any more. More interesting was the absence of the fresh European champions – Czechoslovakia did not qualify for the Olympics. It looked like the priority was the normal national team – a change becoming somewhat visible by now, and entirely new East European approach. USSR officially separated their A team from the Olympic one – different coaches, different players. In 1975 Konstantin Beskov was the Olympic team coach and Spartak Moscow was the ‘base’ of the formation. There was no clear border, though – players were taken from one team to another, depending on whims of the national team coach. At the end the scheme was changed once again – for the Olympics Beskov was replaced by Lobanovsky, and there was no longer unique Olympic team – the national team players simply became Olympic team players. Messy affair even in purely sporting terms: what was the point of using one bunch of players during qualifications only to discard them when the finals start? No wonder motivation was lost.
One of the original Olympic teams in 1975: from left: V. Filatov, V. Utkin, V. Sakharov, A. Minaev, V. Zvyagintzev, V. Hadzipanagis, N. Osyanin, A. Maksimenkov, A. Prokhorov, E. Lovchev – captain.
The whole idea of using particular clubs as the ‘base’ of national formation, with just a few additional players, was crazy enough – and probably concocted by Lobanovsky, who used practically the whole Dinamo Kiev in the national team. Beskov may be disliked the idea, but that was the order. It did not work – Spartak Moscow was in shabby form – so in the team above only 3 players came from Spartak. Other things did not work either: Zvyagintzev, Prokhorov, and Lovchev were just taken away from Beskov by Lobanovsky. Most surprisingly the ethnic Greek – Hadzipanagis – was permitted to go to Greece and play professionally there: no Olympics for him, but it was especially stupid move by the Soviets: their national formations were struggling and they lost carelessly a very good player on top of it.
Anyway, when Lobanovsky arrived, with his assistants Bazilevich and Oleg Morozov (he was not attached to Lobanovsky’s usual thinktank – most likely Morozov was imposed on Lobanovsky, which never makes for good and healthy team athmosphere), the players shown above disappeared: only Prokhorov, Zvygintzev (by now also playing for Dinamo Kiev), Minaev, and Fedorov went to Montreal. The rest was familiar… 11 Dinamo Kiev players plus reserves from here and there. It was the national team again – Aleksander Prokhorov (Spartak) and Vladimir Astapovsky (CSKA) were already the goalies of the A team, since Rudakov was in bad form. Leonid Nazarenko (CSKA) was already used in the A team as well. Vladimir Fedorov (Pakhtakor Tashkent) and David Kipiani (Dinamo Tbilisi) were also perspective national team players. Only Aleksander Minaev (Spartak Moscow) was so-so – apparently, in good form, but not a player Lobanovsky was going to use much. The rest of the squad perhaps does not need mentioning… the starting eleven of Kiev and a substitute as well – Viktor Zvyagintzev, Viktor Matvienko, Stefan Reshko, Vladimir Troshkin, Mikhail Fomenko, Anatoly Konkov, Leonid Buryak, Vladimir Veremeev, Viktor Kolotov, Oleg Blokhin, and Vladimir Onishchenko. Yes, the heroes from 1975 – but in 1976 they were playing weak football, lost the European Championship ¼ finals. Dinamo Kiev was struggling and underperforming, but the same players were really a disaster when playing as USSR. Even tactics were changed – by now it was no longer fast attacking football, but cautious, defensive oriented game, depending on occasional counter-attacks. All balls were to go to Blokhin, in hope he will outrun opposite defenders and score. It was too plain and predictable to bring success, but that was USSR conducted by Lobanovsky. It was expected to win the Olympics – mostly because the only relatively strong opposition were Poland (minus some players gone professional in the West, most important absence – Robert Gadocha) and DDR (considered in a slump already and a puppet team, ready to give victory to the ‘Big Brother’ without even a pretense of a fight).