Lev Ivanovich Yashin was born in Moscow in 1929. Aged 12 when the USSR was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1941, his health suffered from terrible wartime conditions and hard factory work. After the war his talent was spotted and he played for the Moscow Dynamo youth team. He first played a senior match for Dynamo in 1950, though he was not a regular first-teamer until later.
The ‘Black Octopus’
From 1953 Lev Yashin’s career took off. He was picked for the USSR national team in 1954. A brave, athletic goalkeeper noted for his ability to “talk his defenders through a game”, Yashin stayed 20 years with Dynamo, winning three Cup finals and five league titles. His brilliance at the World Cup in Sweden in 1958 convinced many people he was the best goalkeeper in the world. In 1963, Yashin, often known as the ‘Black Octopus’, became the only goalkeeper to win the Ballon d’Or.
Lev Yashin ended his international career after the 1966 World Cup when the USSR came fourth. Yashin gave his goalkeeping gloves to Portugal’s Eusebio at the end of his last match. He stopped playing for Dynamo in 1970, aged 41. He was as vocal in later life as he had been on the pitch. He held many administrative posts with Dynamo Moscow; he frequently clashed with club president Piotr Bogdanov and got into political trouble for it. Lev Yashin died in 1980, aged 50.
Lev Yashin’s life was defined by three things. One was the special existence of a goalkeeper, always on the edge of triumph or disaster. Another was belonging to Dynamo Moscow from the age of 16 till he died. The third was the Soviet Union; Yashin’s world was shaped by Soviet Communism and the Great Patriotic War. These things made him what he was: a determined goalkeeper who never backed away from a challenge.
Educators could look at the life story of Lev Yashin and work with young people to consider this question:
- Would his life have been different if he had lived in the West, or in post-Soviet Russia?
The ‘Black Octopus’ saves his side again: Lev Yashin in action, USSR v. Argentina, Buenos Aires 1961 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).
Lev Yashin is maybe the best goalkeeper football has ever seen. His world was shaped by the Soviet Union. His story is one about identity and ideology.
LIFE STORIES Latest
Do you wanna know more?
HISTORY CAN BE EXPLORED THROUGH THE LIVES OF INDIVIDUALS
Browse our collection of stories about football history and inclusion. With the history of football being made up of millions of stories, of individuals and communities, of movements and processes, we offer stories that can inspire our cultural conversations today.
Get to know untold stories where individuals are making history with football. When faced with insurmountable challenges, individuals past and present can use football as a cultural force to foster positive change in society. We honour these individuals and tell their ‘untold’ stories in short videos.
Explore our innovative educational resources that use football’s history, heritage and legacy to engage young people. The resources include ready-made lesson plans and historical source collections for school history education as well as toolkit with activities for non-formal settings.
LATEST POST You may also be interested in
Today, 29 September, is the day on which French female football pioneer Carmen Pomiès was born in 1900 and passed away in 1982.
In cooperation with the festival “Forum on European Culture”, we spoke with author David Goldblatt about the value of football for Europe, taking historical perspectives.
On this day, 21 September, we look at how playing a game of football can contribute to peace by looking at the work of the NGO Childrens Football Alliance.
As the UEFA 2020 European Championships got pushed ahead one year, we provide you with a 365-day #onthisday series of posts to help all fans out there to go back in time, think, and reflect.
Football represents a large cultural space in society. It is not isolated from political developments. How have football players used this space to achieve their social goals?