Monday, October 1, 2012

Change occurred in USSR as well, but in the opposite direction of detected shift of power in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. After years of reforms, innovations, and experiments, Soviet football returned to normal – standard two-legged championship, 2 points for a win, one for tie, no limit of ties. Reforms did not help, but back to 'normal' was no help either.

It was exactly the 40th Soviet championship – numbers, not only in USSR, lie: championships existed before the 'first' one, even well back before the Bolshevik revolution, but the number signifies the league-format Soviet wide championship for clubs, which started. The years too cannot be counted back to 1937, for the Second World War interrupted regular football. 40th season of the league really. However, the significant occasion turned out to be one the grayest seasons of Soviet football. Very little could be said about 1977 – beginning with the national team, losing a spot among the World Cup finalists in 1978. For a second consecutive time, and this time there were no political excuses like in 1973: USSR in a group with Hungary and Greece. Hardly the toughest of opponents. Club football was no better – Spartak Moscow in Second Division and not a single pleasant surprise rising. A lot of criticism instead, especially in the lower leagues, but the First one was not spared either. The final picture is a bit misleading, but it was old same, old same – Dinamo Kev champions; Dinamo Moscow – Cup winners, the well known big clubs. Power or stagnation? It all depends on the standpoint: there were people suggesting 'tough' season, asking for heroic performance in order of succeeding. Such is the view in the official history of Spartak (Moscow): Second Division was really tough, they say. It was no joke to win there. May be that, may be the big clubs were weak. May be Soviet football really strong, since unprecedented two Second Division players were regulars in the national team; may be it was appalling lack of form and quality in the top league leaving the national team coaches to search even in the lower tier for someone capable of kicking ball. Anyhow, during and immediately after the season there was considerable criticism about: manipulations, disregard for rules, favoritism, unsportsmanship, laziness, lack of ambition, even thinly disguised hints of corruption. Speaking of the low, let's start with low, for many of the ills were highly visible precisely there. After all, it is a bit strange enormous and populous country like USSR to be unable to find enough good players to beat Greece.