Lev Yashin

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Lev Yashin
Yashin in 1965
Personal information
Full name Lev Ivanovich Yashin
Date of birth(1929-10-22)22 October 1929
Place of birth Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Date of death 20 March 1990(1990-03-20) (aged 60)
Place of death Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Height 1.89 m (6 ft 2 in) [1]
Position(s) Goalkeeper
Senior career*
1950–1970 Dynamo Moscow 326 (0)
National team
1954–1970 Soviet Union 74 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Lev Ivanovich Yashin (Russian : Лев Ива́нович Я́шин; 22 October 1929 – 20 March 1990), nicknamed the "Black Spider" or the "Black Panther", [2] [3] was a Soviet professional footballer, regarded by many as the greatest goalkeeper in the history of the sport. [4] He was known for his athleticism, positioning, stature, bravery, imposing presence in goal, and acrobatic reflex saves. [5] [6] [7] [8] He was also deputy chairman of the Football Federation of the Soviet Union.


Yashin earned status for revolutionising the goalkeeping position by imposing his authority on the entire defence. [5] [6] [9] A vocal presence in goal, he shouted orders at his defenders, came off his line to intercept crosses and also ran out to meet onrushing attackers, done at a time when goalkeepers spent the 90 minutes standing in the goal waiting to be called into action. [5] [9] [10] His performances made an indelible impression on a global audience at the 1958 World Cup, the first to be broadcast internationally. He dressed head to toe in apparent black (in truth very dark blue), [3] thus earning his nickname the 'Black Spider', which enhanced his popularity. [5] [9]

Yashin appeared in four World Cups from 1958 to 1970, and in 2002 was chosen on the FIFA Dream Team of the history of World Cups. In 1994, he was chosen for the FIFA World Cup All-Time Team, and in 1998 was chosen as a member of the World Team of the 20th Century. According to FIFA, Yashin saved over 150 penalty kicks in professional football – more than any other goalkeeper. [11] [12] He also kept over 270 clean sheets in his career, winning a gold medal at the 1956 Olympic football tournament, and the 1960 European Championships. [12] [13] In 1963, Yashin received the Ballon d'Or, the only goalkeeper ever to receive the award. [5] He was additionally named posthumously to the Ballon d'Or Dream Team in 2020, and was voted the best goalkeeper of the 20th century by the IFFHS. [14]

Early life

Yashin was born in Moscow to a family of industrial workers. When he was 12, World War II forced him to work in a factory to support the war effort. However his health at the age of 18 (after he suffered a nervous breakdown) meant he was unable to work. [3] [15] Thus, he was sent to work in a military factory in Moscow. After being spotted playing for the factory team he was invited to join the Dynamo Moscow youth team.[ citation needed ]

Club career

Yashin's Dynamo Moscow jersey (middle), next to Platini's (left) and Kahn's (right) in the San Siro museum Jerseys of Platini, Yashin & Kahn.jpg
Yashin's Dynamo Moscow jersey (middle), next to Platini’s (left) and Kahn’s (right) in the San Siro museum

Yashin’s debut for Dynamo Moscow came in 1950 in a friendly match. It was not the debut he would have hoped for, as he conceded a soft goal scored straight from a clearance by the opposing keeper. That year he played in only two league games, and did not appear in a senior match again until 1953. But he remained determined, and stayed at Dynamo in the reserves waiting for another opportunity. Yashin also played goalie for the Dynamo ice hockey team during those early years of trying to break into the senior squad. He managed to win a USSR ice hockey cup in 1953 and was third in the USSR ice hockey championship as goalkeeper. [16]

He spent his entire professional football career with Dynamo Moscow, from 1950 to 1970, winning the USSR football championship five times and the Soviet Cup three times.[ citation needed ] Yashin's club teammate, rival and mentor was Alexei "Tiger" Khomich, the keeper of the Soviet national team, who had become famous for his role in Dynamo Moscow’s British tour. He also internally rivaled goalkeeper Valter Sanaya, who left the club in 1953. [17]

International career

Yashin in 1960 Lev Yashin 1960c.jpg
Yashin in 1960

In 1954, Yashin was called up to the Soviet national team, and would go on to gather 78 caps. [18] With the national team he won the 1956 Summer Olympics as well as the first European championship, the 1960 European Nations' Cup. [3] He also played in three World Cups, in 1958, 1962 and 1966. [19] Yashin is credited with four clean sheets out of the 12 games he played in the World Cup finals. [3]

The 1958 World Cup, played in Sweden, put Yashin on the map for his performances, with the Soviet Union advancing to the quarter-finals. [3] In a group stage match against the eventual Cup winners Brazil, the Soviet team lost 2–0. Facing a Brazil team that featured Garrincha and a 17 year old Pelé in attack, Yashin's performance prevented the score from becoming a rout. [20]

Yashin was nominated for Ballon d'Or in 1960 and 1961 and placed fifth and fourth, respectively. [21] In 1962, despite suffering two concussions during the tournament, he once again led the team to a quarter-final finish, before losing to host country Chile. [22] That tournament showed that Yashin was all too human, having made some uncharacteristic mistakes. In the game against Colombia, which the Soviet Union was leading 4–1, Yashin let in a few soft goals, including a goal scored by Marcos Coll directly from a corner kick (the first and the only goal scored directly from a corner in FIFA World Cup history). The game finished in a 4–4 tie, which led the French newspaper L'Équipe to predict the end of Yashin's career. [8] He did, however, make an outstanding save against Chile in the quarter-final. Despite this, the Soviet Union suffered a 2–1 defeat and were eliminated from the World Cup. [3]

Despite the disappointment of the 1962 World Cup, Yashin would bounce back to win the Ballon d'Or in December 1963. One of his best performances that year was the 1963 England v Rest of the World football match, where he made a number of spectacular saves. From that point onward he was known to the world as the "Black Spider" because he wore a distinctive all-black outfit and because it seemed as though he had eight arms to save almost everything. [5] [9] But to his fans, he was always the fearless "Black Panther". [2] He often played wearing a cloth cap of burnt-brick colour. Yashin led the Soviet team to its best showing at the FIFA World Cup, a fourth-place finish in the 1966 World Cup held in England. [3]

Always ready to give advice to his comrades, Yashin even made a fourth trip to the World Cup finals in 1970, held in Mexico, as the third-choice back-up and an assistant coach. The Soviet team again reached the quarter-finals. In 1971, in Moscow, he played his last match for Dynamo Moscow. Lev Yashin's FIFA testimonial match was held at the Lenin Stadium in Moscow with 100,000 fans attending and a host of football stars, including Pelé, Eusébio and Franz Beckenbauer. [5]

Post-playing career

After retiring from playing, Yashin spent almost 20 years in various administrative positions at Dynamo Moscow. A bronze statue of Lev Yashin was erected at the Dynamo Stadium in Moscow. [23]

In 1986, following a thrombophlebitis contracted while he was in Budapest, Yashin underwent the amputation of one of his legs. [23] He died in 1990 of stomach cancer, despite a surgical intervention in an attempt to save his life. He was given a state funeral as a Soviet Honoured Master of Sport. [23]

Yashin was survived by wife Valentina Timofeyevna and daughters Irina and Elena; [1] when Russia hosted the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Valentina was still living in the Moscow apartment that the Soviet state had given her husband in 1964. [24] Yashin has one granddaughter and one surviving grandson; another grandson died in 2002 at age 14 from injuries suffered in a bicycle accident. [24] The surviving grandson, Vasili Frolov, played as a goalkeeper in Dynamo's youth section and was on the books of the senior side, [25] but never played a game with the senior side, retiring from play at age 23. He now runs a goalkeeper training school in Moscow near Spartak Moscow's current stadium. [24]

Style of play and accolades

"Lev Yashin was first-class, a real super goalkeeper. His positional play was excellent, but everything he did was top-class. He was the model for goalkeeping for the next 10 to 15 years, without a doubt. I visualised myself doing some of the things he was doing, even though I was already playing in the top division I used to learn from him."

—England legend Gordon Banks, voted the second greatest goalkeeper, behind Yashin, of the 20th Century. [7]

Yashin was "the peerless goalkeeper of the century".

—Portugal legend Eusébio. [9]

Considered by many in the sport to be the greatest goalkeeper in the history of the game, [4] Yashin was an imposing presence in goal due to his tall stature, and was highly regarded for his athleticism, agility, positional sense, bravery, and exceptional reflexes, which enabled him to produce acrobatic and spectacular saves. [5] [6] [7] [8] [26] [27] Yashin remains the only goalkeeper to have won the Ballon d'Or, in 1963. [5] He also stopped 151 penalty kicks during his career, more than any other goalkeeper in the history of the sport, and kept over 270 clean sheets. [23] For his outstanding service to the people and to his country, Yashin was awarded the Order of Lenin in 1967, the highest award of the USSR. [5]

“Yashin revolutionised the role of goalkeeper like no other before him, by always being ready to act as an extra defender” and by “starting dangerous counter-attacks with his positioning and quick throws”.

France Football , June 2018. [3]

A vocal and authoritative figure between the posts, Yashin is known for revolutionizing the goalkeeping position: [5] [6] [9] he shouted orders at his defenders, came off his line to intercept crosses, and also ran out to meet onrushing attackers, done at a time when goalkeepers spent the 90 minutes standing in the goal waiting to be called into action. [5] [9] [10] Yashin would always organise the defensive game of his team, often so fiercely that even his wife accused him of yelling too much on the pitch. He rarely captained his teams, as the later accepted custom of appointing a goalkeeper captain was virtually unheard-of in that era, but his leadership on the field was always evident. Yashin was one of the goalkeepers who began the practice of punching balls out in difficult situations instead of trying to catch them. Other novel practices he developed were the quick throw of the ball to begin a counterattack, coming out of the penalty area to anticipate danger, and the command and organisation of the defenders – practices now quite common among goalkeepers. [5] When asked what his secret was, he would reply that the trick was "to have a smoke to calm your nerves, then toss back a strong drink to tone your muscles." [11] [23]

In 1994, FIFA established the Lev Yashin Award for the best goalkeeper at the World Cup finals. FIFA polls named Yashin as the sole goalkeeper in World Team of the 20th Century. World Soccer magazine named him in their 100 Greatest Players of the 20th century. Many commentators consider Yashin the best goalkeeper in the history of football, which has resulted in him being chosen to be the goalkeeper in most of the world-all-time teams (including the FIFA World Cup All-Time Team and the FIFA Dream Team). [28]


Yashin on a 2016 Russian stamp from the series "Football Legends" RU140-15.jpg
Yashin on a 2016 Russian stamp from the series "Football Legends"
Commemorative coin issued in 2008 by the Central Bank of Armenia AM 100 dram Ag 2008 Football Yashin b.PNG
Commemorative coin issued in 2008 by the Central Bank of Armenia
Bronze statue of Yashin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Opening the Russia House in Rio 03cr.jpg
Bronze statue of Yashin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The following works are devoted to Yashin:

Ice hockey career

Yashin also played ice hockey (also as a goalie) and he won the Soviet Cup in March 1953. [3] He stopped playing ice hockey in 1954 to concentrate on his football career. [3]


"What kind of a goalkeeper is the one who is not tormented by the goal he has allowed? He must be tormented! And if he is calm, that means the end. No matter what he had in the past, he has no future."

Lev Yashin. [35]

"The joy of seeing Yuri Gagarin flying in space is only superseded by the joy of a good penalty save."

Lev Yashin. [36]

"There have only been two world-class goalkeepers. One was Lev Yashin, the other was the German boy who played for Manchester City."

Lev Yashin on Bert Trautmann. [37]

"I am not the best goalkeeper in the world, it is Vladimir Beara."

Lev Yashin, upon receiving the award for best player in 1963. [38] [39]

"Yashin plays football better than me".

Striker Sandro Mazzola after a 1963 Italy–USSR match, during which Yashin saved his penalty. [40]

Career statistics


Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Dynamo Moscow 1950 Top League 20
1951 00
1952 00
1953 130
1954 240
1955 220
1956 190
1957 120
1958 60
1959 190
1960 180
1961 190
1962 170
1963 270
1964 280
1965 200
1966 80
1967 200
1968 170
1969 220
1970 130
Career total3260


Appearances and goals by national team and year
National teamYearAppsGoals
Soviet Union 195420

Other statistics



Dynamo Moscow

Soviet Union


Ice hockey

Dynamo Moscow

See also

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