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Lev Yashin Biography

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Full nameLev Ivanovich Yashin
Date of birth22 October 1929
Place of birthMoscow, Soviet Union
Date of death20 March 1990 (aged 60)
Place of deathMoscow, Soviet Union
Teams played forDynamo Moscow FC,USSR
Playing positionGoalkeeper
Lev Yashin is the first name which comes to one’s mind if iconic goalkeepers are talked about.He is the single most important factor in giving relevance and acknowledgement to the craft of the goalkeeper, a player who gets maligned the most for his errors but doesn’t get enough plaudits with most of his tasks seen as routine. He was the first and so far only player to receive the prestigious BallonD'or showing his immense class.

Lev Yashin was born in a working class family in Moscow. During World War 2, Lev Yashin was asked to go work in a factory to help the war effort. Playing for the football team of this factory, Yashin was noticed and signed up by Dynamo Moscow. Yashin made his senior debut in 1950, but his debut was not spectacular with a soft error leading to a goal.

This led Yashin to be sidelined in the Dynamo Moscow team for almost 3 years. He also faced immense competition from the likes of Alexei Tomich and Walter Sanaya. This extended spell on the sidelines did not dissuade the determined Yashin though as he stuck with the reserves team and also resorted to ice hockey goalkeeping for Dynamo Moscow. In 1954, he got his first national cap, a cap which he would later on wear with distinction for the rest of his career. He was part of the gold winning 1956 Olympic team in Melbourne and the 1960 European Championship winning team.
The period since his national debut till the Euro triumph was also a great one domestically as he had won 4 Soviet League titles along with a Soviet Cup. The same period also saw his first foray in the World Cup, a tournament he would play for a grand total of 4 times. Though USSR stumbled out of the 2nd round, Yashin earned praise for his great shot stopping and was key in USSR avoiding a mauling at the hands of eventual champions, Brazil. In the next World Cup in Chile, USSR reached the quarters losing to the hosts. Yashin was below par in this tournament with a string of errors gifting a draw to Colombia. Obituaries were written on Yashin’s playing career but in quintessential Yashin fashion, he came back to win the BallonD’or.

He played a key role in the Soviet 4th place finish in the 1996 World Cup and he went on to play one more World Cup in 1970 before calling it a day. Yashin ended with a fantastic record of 270 clean sheets and around 150 penalty saves. Yashin’s life was cut short tragically after he incurred an infection in the leg leading to amputation of the leg and eventual death in 1990.Yashin’s name is still celebrated today, with the best goalkeeper of every World Cup getting an award named after him.

Yashin has won 5 Soviet League titles, 3 Soviet Cups,1 European Championship,1 Olympic Games. Individually, he has been named in many best teams of all time such as World Soccer, FIFA. He has also got the Olympic order and won the Russian goalkeeper of the year award 3 times along with being named the Golden Player of Russia. He was awarded the highest civilian award in USSR, The Order of Lenin.

Yashin was a true gentleman and there is not much of the pitch which could implicate him in any unfavorable manner. Perhaps the only regret in his life would have been that he could not win a World Cup.

Tie Breaker
When Yashin was asked what his secret was to saving penalties, he replied that he smoked a cigarette and took a swig of alcohol which helped him calm his nerves.

Last Updated : March 20, 2014

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