Yugoslavia I Division

The best of the league consisted of 7 clubs. The final table provides misleading ‘clarity’ – the obvious weak teams were relegated and at the top there was also ‘a perfect order’, placing every club neatly according to predictable and traditional strength. The details are hidden somewhat, but could be easily traced. There is nothing wrong with the final table, of course, but the details repeal why.

Velez (Mostar) finished 7th with 35 points, but worse goal-difference than their immediate rivals.

Not bad, Velez were lovely underdogs in the 1970s. Yet, the peak of the squad was perhaps a year or two back and now they were reaching the crucial moment of starting a new team. At their best, Velez was not really able to challenge the big Croat and Belgrade clubs – the were strong enough to be among the best 4 or 5, but not strong enough to win a title. The fate of smaller clubs… Now they seemingly moved down a tiny bit and unless making changes they were in danger. Yet, they were still stronger than most of the league.

The club just before Velez was their opposite: Sloboda (Tuzla), a smaller than Velez Bosnian club, was bravely going up since 1969 when they emerged from the second division. Perhaps 1877-78 was their finest season so far – they had experience and balance, reaching their peak.



Led by the local legend Mustafa Hukic, still 27 years old, the modest boys from the mining town of Tuzla soared, but… to a point. No matter what, they were small club, having no chance of keeping their best players and recruiting stars from elsewhere was unthinkable. Their best was pretty much the region between 4-8 place. With luck, they could stay there for a few more years – after all, the real danger for them was fame: once their top players were noted, they were to be snapped either from the big clubs, or just go abroad. It was good running for the moment and had to be enjoyed also for the moment.

Another similar to Sloboda club was also rising: the Croatian NK Rijeka. They finished 5th, two points ahead of Sloboda and Velez, tied with Dinamo (Zagreb), but with worse goal-difference. Tiny detail… inevitably making the difference between big and small. Rijeka played well, they reached their finest ever time, but were the third strongest Croatian club and therefore unable to build and preserve extraordinary squad. It was admirable that they were able to meddle with the big clubs, but it was also clear that Rijeka was not to win the championship.

Rijeka played well in the championship, but it was not all – they had a much better moment to enjoy.

Dinamo (Zagreb) finished 4th. Same points like NK Rijeka – 37 – but better goal-difference.

Another club on the rise, but not yet at its peak. Dinamo struggled in the previous years, suffering a decline, which still kept them above most of the league members, but nothing much. Eventually Dinamo got a new talented generation of players and started its recovery after 1975. So far, the team was not ripe yet for success, but steadily going up. Fourth place was fair – they were not ready yet.

Hajduk (Split) however was going the opposite way. Bronze medals for them this year, but it was dangerous moment. The team reached its peak about 1975 and that was that – for the first time since 1970 Hajduk was not in the race for the title. The inertia was strong and they left Dinamo, Rijeka, Sloboda, and Velez behind, but… not far behind.

The trouble was that it was almost impossible to detect a problem. Hajduk was similar to Borussia (Moenchengladbach), PSV Eindhoven, Saint Etienne, and Leeds United – strong, exciting clubs, with sound policy, avoiding the trap of letting a great squad become too old and collapse. They constantly and carefully reshaped year after year, seemingly getting more and more solid. There was no way to envision a problem, they stayed on top for years, but… somehow never fulfilled their rich potential on international level. Hajduk, at its peak, was unable to go really far in the European tournaments, and now it stuck – a squad full of national team players, individually ranking very high. None was old – the oldest one, Jurica Jerkovic, was 28. The age clouded the problem – the boys appeared still young enough, even younger ones were coming every year, and on the surface it looked like they still had time to really soar. But the team as a team was getting old – most of the players were around for years. The signal was ominous: Hajduk finished third, but did not play any role in the contest for the title – the second placed team had 10 points more. Hajduk was actually fighting for better position with Dinamo, Rijeka, Sloboda, and Velez. Perilous season, in a way.

So, at the end the championship was contested, in a way, by the Belgrade giants. The rivalry was hot as ever, but the opponents were in very different situations, mirroring the group just bellow them. Crvena zvezda successfully changed generations without real pain. The new team was based on Vladimir Petrovic, who moved to midfield position. Bogicevic was still in the squad, but ready to abroad. The rest was talented group – Sestic, Zec, Muslin, Filipovic, Jovanovic, Savic. May be not as great individually as the previous squad, but impressive nevertheless. It was a squad nearing its peak, but was not there yet and it showed – they finished second, leaving the rest of the league far, far behind – 10 points more than 3rd placed Hajduk – but in the same time trailed 5 points behind the champions.

This squad was on the brink of their greatest season, but not there yet. Of course, second place is almost a disaster for a club like Crvena zvezda, especially when their archenemy was first, but the future was theirs. A novelty: Crvena zvezda played with Admiral kit – very unusual choice for East European club. Those were the years when the British firm tried to expand beyond Great Britain, however reluctantly and may be even late.

Confident and very familiar champions – 8th title for Partizan (Belgrade).

On the surface, dominant leaders – 5 points ahead of the nearest pursuer, 22 wins and only 2 losses, 55:19 goal-difference. Second best attack, unrivaled defense. Supreme… were they? Partizan in the 1970s was not great – they stayed on top, won the odd title, but were never impressive. A look of their players perhaps explains why: Partizan did not have first-rate stars. It was mostly composed of players who ranked second or third at their respective positions. Yes, national team players, but not regulars. Unlike Crvena zvezda, combining their own production with young talent from elsewhere, and Hajduk, depending almost exclusively on their own junior system, Partizan recruited mostly established stars from other clubs – and since they were either old, or not exactly first-rate stars, Partizan was solid, but not great. This year they had the veteran striker Santrac, who came back from foreign spell pretty much to finish his career; the goalkeeper Petar Borota, Hatunic… one too old, the other two never became regulars in the national team and it was clear by now they will never be. The three made their names playing for other clubs, typical for Partizan. The won a title, but to a point it was mostly because of lack of opposition – a solid and experienced squad easily filled the vacuum. As they did a few years back, when Crvena zvezda was shaky and in the midst of generational change.

Top row, from left: Arsenovic, Hatunic, Stojkovic, Zalad, Dzordzevic, Pejovic, Masic

Middle: Jovic, Golac, Dzuric, Borota, Prekazi, Grubjesic, Jesic

Sitting: Trifunovic, Kunovac, Polak, Santrac, Klincarski, Vukotic, Zavisic.

Whatever the weaknesses of Partizan, champions are champions. It was especially nice to see Slobodan Santrac winning a title at the twilight of his career – he played for small OFK Beograd in his best years and naturally a title was outside the club’s reach.

Yugoslavia I Division

The crème of Yugoslavian football of course was more interesting. Let’s begin with the novelty of advertising – no system was detectable. Some clubs from Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina used shirt adds – but others did not and most curiously it was the strongest clubs which played with plain shirts.

NK Osijek, the most modest of the Croatian clubs playing in first division, used shirt adds. They finished 13th.


A bit better was Borac (Banja Luka) from Bosnia and Herzegovina – 12th. They had better days earlier in the decade, but in general were mid-table club, so it was not really going into decline. Yet, the bigger clubs of the federal republic seemingly did not fancy adds this season.

Standing, from left: Sime Miocic, Slobodan Karalic, Zvonko Vudacak, Berislav Bukovic, Zlatan Arnautovic, Fuad Dulic, Abid Kovacevic, ?.

First row: Zoran Smilevski, Dragan Marjanovic, Nenad Lazic, Hikmet Kusmic, Dzevad Kreso, Fahrudin Zejnilovic, Slobodan Kuljanin, Misad Sejdic.

The Slovenian representative – Olimpija (Ljubljana) – also displayed adds. It was may be the most consistent of the Yugoslavian clubs in that, but just like the clubs shown already, the sponsor’s logo did not help. Olimpija finished 10th – like Borac, generally a mid-table club, so no surprising season.

Olimpija (Ljubljana) – if anything, they did not have enough shirts with sponsor’s logo for everyone. Quite typical for the 1970s – the same often happened in the West too. Consistency was relative – the goalkeepers had no adds on their shirts – but there were clubs at that time showing the opposite: goalkeeper with adds, but the rest of the team using plain shirts. Innocent years…

No innocence in the championship – relative parity of the most teams made for competitive championship. Quite normal for Yugoslavia, but at the end it was largely a race for escaping relegation. Every club bellow 8th place was involved in that – 10 clubs in total. The 9th and the 17th placed were divided by mere 4 points at the end. Some clubs normally unconcerned with relegation were endangered this season – Vojvodina (Novi Sad), 8th with 32 points, and FK Sarajevo, 9th, also with 32 points – but they were not exactly in big decline. The club steadily going down for some time was OFK Beograd – they barely escaped relegation the previous season and did not play better this one either. The third in strength, but first in history Belgrade club survived… but they finished 16th and, with 28 points and exactly the same goal-difference as their direct competitor, survival depended on… hard to tell on what precisely. OFK Beograd had one more win than Celik (Zenica) – 10 vs 9. They also scored more goals – 38 vs Celik’s 34. Most likely either the number of wins or the better scoring record was the decisive factor – survival by a split hair.

A place above OFK Beograd thanks to one point difference finished NK Zagreb.

A club similar to OFK Beograd – existing in the shadow of big neighbour, in their case Dinamo (Zagreb). NK Zagreb were just lucky to play in first division and hardly able to keep good players in their squad. Whoever was young and talented was unlikely to last. Bakota and Cop, for instance. Solid players eventually came from the big neighbour, but, as a rule, older players in decline and no longer needed in the ‘real’ club – Cercek and Kafka were the examples here. No wonder NK Zagreb was generally fighting for survival. At the end, the only interesting point about this team is once again the ‘innocence’ of the 1970s: the club used Puma, but… one of their goalies, Simunic, is dressed in Adidas kit, and the other, Bozic, has something else, neither Puma, nor Adidas.

Slightly better – or luckier – than NK Zagreb were Radnicki (Nis). They took the 14th place with 30 points. A point better than the Croatians, a record they shared with NK Osijek and Borac, but the Serbian club had the worst goal-difference of the three. Not by much, but still the worst.

One more club just lucky to survive and stay in top flight for another year. And one more club lacking fashionable Adidas shirts for every member of the squad – three shirts short here…

Similar fate for Buducnost (Titograd)… the best club of Montenegro, hailing from the capital city named after ‘the great leader’. Today the name of the club remains, but the city has its original name – Podgorica. In the great Yugoslavian scheme, Buducnost was small fry, and the name of the club , meaning ‘Future’ was a bit ironic. They had to think constantly of the future alright… may be in the future they would have a team at least not concerned only with escaping relegation. Which was not by much this season – they finished with 31 points.

Naturally, one more team about which nothing can be said… except that they were in line with the 1970s… Adidas kit for the field players and something different for the goalkeeper.

So was the bigger part of the league, holding its breath to the end. Two unlucky clubs took the short stick inevitably. The absolute beginners, predictably to a point, finished last.


Trepca (Kosovska Mitrovica) debuted in the first division this season and since the club was dwarfed by practically everybody else, they were not expected to last – even if only Kosovo is taken into account, Trepca were at best the second club there: Pristina was the top club historically and they did not rank high in Yugoslavian football, usually meandering between second and first division. Trepca had no chance to impress – after all, using simultaneously Adidas and Puma was hardly a news and the name of their home city was only confusing at the time: sometime Kosovska Mitrovica, sometime Titovska Mitrovica. The world was largely unaware of this city until the 1990s – when it became known, it was unfortunately not because of football. Back in 1977-78 Trepca fought bravely and lost the fight pretty much at the end of the championship – they were lowly, but not a hopeless outsider. Yet, 24 points were 4 less than the nearest competition and Trepca went down.

The second relegated club was also expected – Celik (Zenica) were more accustomed to playing in second division. When they appeared in the first league, they were not expected to last. May be two, three seasons the most, finishing at the bottom of the table, until they sink again. Another club with ironic name… ‘Celik’ roughly means ‘strong as rock’ or ‘hard as rock’. Winners they were not…


Enough Puma shirts for the whole squad, but nothing else. Yes, they were true to their name – they fought, they tried hard, they did not give up, but lost… by very little, but lost. Celik was unlucky, yet, tiny difference was still a difference. 17th and relegated. Escape was so close, too bad. Yes, they were obvious candidate for relegation, but hardly the weak outsider – bad luck is perhaps more appropriate expression.

Yugoslavia II Division

Yugoslavia, a bit in limbo – the new generation was not fully asserted. The cost was missing the World Cup finals and not entirely convincing clubs, but Crvena zvezda was almost ready for a big leap and Dinamo (Zagreb) was rapidly recovering the lost ground in the early years of the decade. Fairly competitive season, not unusual for this talented country, but parity existed mainly bellow 4th place. Some up, others down, may be not an exceptional season, yet, fairly interesting.

Second division football remained a local affair as everywhere, and it should be mentioned for two reasons only. The first is typical – clubs often playing top level football were now merely hoping to return to it. The bulk consisted of unknown outside Yugoslavia teams which rarely or never appeared in the premier league. The second reason was the strange rules, if such existed, about shirt sponsorship. The picture changed almost every year, some clubs displaying adds on their shirts, some not. But it was not necessarily the top clubs – often they had no sponsors, but clubs from second and third divisions had. Even some playing lower levels, which questions even consistent practices in different republics of the federation. Looked like clubs from Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina more often displayed sponsor’s names, than those from Serbia and Croatia, but every year was different.

 Sutjeska (Niksic), from Montenegro, had plain shirts.

Teteks (Tetovo), Macedonia, had shirt adds, however faint.

Still, not every Macedonian club used adds – Podeda (Prilep) had none. Standing from left: Ivan Mechev, Tode Todoroski, Laze Petreski, Vancho Drvosanov, Stevan Glusheski, Blagoj Mitev.

Crouching: Goce Maneski, Stojan Arsov, Risto Gligoroski, Jove Magdeski, Rubin Gjorgjioski.

Maribor, from Slovenia, used no adds too. Standing, from left: Simeunović, Đurić, Arnejčič, Samardžija, Karmel, Petrič, Fatur,

First row: Pirc, Horjak, Glišić, Prosen, Miljković

Neither Proleter (Zrenjanin), another club from Montenegro, which finished second in the Western Second Division.

Standing, from left: Dubljević, Šarenac, Glišin, Dimitrić, Zorić, Kosnić.

First row: Ivančević, Mišić, Tošić, Lukač, Škorić.

Proleter came close to promotion to the first league, where they played before, but lost to Zeljeznicar (Sarajevo). For the well known clubs from the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina the brief spell in second division ended – they were coming back to their usual league. No adds on their shirts either and a huge relief for the fans of perhaps the most popular Bosnian club.

Standing, from left: Ivan Radic, Hajrudin Durbuzovic, Ibro (Esad?) Ibrahimovic, Suad Karalic, Vlade Spasojevic, Nedim Dautovic, Zoran Culjak, Vlado Komsic, Rade Paprica, Ivo Cvitanulic (?), Josip Cilic, Mladen Maric.

Sitting: Dragan (Dragomir?) Vlaski, Milomir Odovic, Anto Zecevic, Nedzad Omerhodzic, Dragan (Dragoljub?) Galonja, Ranko Dordic, Milko Paunic, Ivan Lusic, Slobodan Kojovic.

Confusing names, but almost the same squad which was relegated the previous season. Now they were going up, meaning they were not all that weak after all. Not a single big star here, naturally.

The Eastern Second Division was won by another former member of first division, however, much more modest and younger club than Zeljeznicar – Napredak (Krusevac).

One of the clubs found after Tito’s Communists took hold of Yugoslavia – in 1946. The name means roughly ‘Progress’, but there was no way a provincial Serbian club to be really true to its name in the presence of big Belgrade and Novi Sad clubs. Unless ‘progress’ meant climbing up to top flight.

No adds on the shirts and no impressive players. Unlike Zeljeznicar, expected to stay in First Division, the fate of Napredak was pretty much trying to survive.

Holland Cup

A double is the always coveted, and there was a double in Holland in 1977-78, but a different one. PSV Eindhoven had to be satisfied with the title. The Cup final opposed the second and the third in the championship – Ajax vs AZ’67. A chance for either club to win a trophy and also worthy final for still the top clubs participated in it. Traditional winner vs young upstart. Both teams on ascend. As often happens, the final was not full of goals – the stakes were high, the opponents were quite equal. Photos may be misleading:

Peter Arntz shoots towards Ajax’s net – the Amstrdam’s defender looks desperate and the picture suggests overwhelming supremacy of AZ’67. It was not so, but still they managed to score and Ajax did not. 1-0 for the young club from Alkmaar. The Cup was theirs.

Peter Arnzt, Hans Reijnders, and Kees Kist triumphal.

Roger Schowenaar sharing his happiness with the masses. The strange Dutch habit of the 1970s to appear in white robes, pretty much bathrobes than anything else, still persistent. New Cup winners no matter how they look.

Double losers, Ajax. Second in championship and second in the Cup tournament. Disappointment… or may be an ominous signal that despite their promise, this vintage was not going to be really great and Ajax had to wait for another one. Yes, the team was young, full of talent, had equally young and talented coach, but… this was more or less a squad to be second-best. Squad photos like this one are nightmare for a historian, for they do not belong to any season and Ajax had more than its fair share of such pictures – this is neither 1976-77, nor 1977-78. The reason is in the clubs quite unusual transfers during the 1970s, beginning with Cruyff’s in the autumn of 1973. This picture was taken in the summer of 1977, before the season’s start. Come October and, the season already in progress everywhere, and suddenly Suurbier and Notten were gone. The faith of Rene Notten is clear – he went to Feyenoord. Wim Suurbier’s remains a mystery: he went to Metz (France) or Schalke 04 (West Germany)? Or to both? Certainly he played for Schalke 04 this season – but only 12 matches, which deepens the mystery … not a full season. Was he loaned by Metz? Or by Schalke 04 to Metz? But never mind Suurbier – with his leave, Ruud Krol was the sole survivor of the great Ajax. It was a brand new vintage – Schrijvers, Geels, and van Dord provided experience, but it was generally a squad of bright youngsters – Schoenaker, La Ling, Tahamata, the Danish imports Lerby and Arnesen. The team was still a bit inexperienced and needed perhaps a few years to really ripen. But it was not to become a great team… the transfers continued steadily, may be because the talent was not exactly successful and Ajax had to wait for some years until the next really strong team appeared. In a way, second best – this year, twice.

AZ’67 won their first trophy – a big success for barely 10 years old club.

Yes, the boys from Alkmaar were rising, this season they confirmed that were not one-time wonder, but were evaluated with caution. It was the making of the squad which prevented commentators from excitement: young rising stars, rapidly becoming known in Europe, seemingly came from nowhere – Peters, Arntz, Metgod, Spelbos, the Dane Nygaard, and especially the fantastic goalscorer Kees Kist. But the other half of the team was made of old veterans, some discarded from their previous clubs: van Hanegem and Mladen Ramljak, formerly of Feyenoord, Hugo Hovenkamp, Theo Vonk, and the second Yugoslavian Rizah Meskovic. It was almost impossible to envision a great future for such a squad: the veterans had a second wind, but they were on their last legs and surely would not last. The youngsters also were not expected to last… after all, AZ’67 was a small club and inevitably their talented players would be snatched by wealthier clubs from Holland and abroad. Winning was to be their undoing… but they won the Cup, it was fantastic, and most importantly, contrary to expectations, AZ’67 was still to go up and reach higher peaks without changing their strange approach to building a team.

Holland I Division

First division – the real thing. Some up, some down, but not really a season disturbing the status quo. Telstar was the early and hopeless outsider.

Second row, from left: Mircea Petescu – coach, John Massa, Paul Stam, Eddy Kraal, Arno Wellerdieck, Nico Schroder, Rogier Krone, Frans van Essen, Jos Jonker, Cees Kick – assistant coach.

Front row: Martien Burgers, Koos Kuut, Ab van Oorschot, Torben Mikkelsen, Paul van der Meeren, Fred Bischot.

More than modest squad, winning only 14 points and naturally finishing dead last months before the end of the season.

The race for escaping the deadly 17th place was thrilling – 6 teams desperately tried to avoid relegation. Five lucky, one unlucky. FC Amsterdam, once strong and aiming high, failed. Looked inevitable – the club was declining for years, changed name hoping to reorganize, but the downfall was unstoppable. Money was the main reason, along with the difficulty to co-exist with Ajax. With 26 points, FC Amsterdam was a point short from safety.

All smiles before the start of the season, but not at the end: standing from left: T. Bruins-slot (assistant coach), N. Grozenipper (masseur), A. Kampheus, Th.Swart, E. van Aken, C.Swerissen, A. Raven, L. de Leeuw, W. van Bommel, M. Wiggemansen, A. Wetzel, G.v.d. Bildt (coach) P.v.d. Meent.

First row: J. Wiesman (equipe manager), C. De Jong, L.v.d. Merut, H. Bouwmeester, H. Wisman, H. Stuy. van Veenendaal. W. Busker, C. Stout, Tj. Koopman.

Not much of a team… perhaps the only interesting thing was their goalkeeper. From all players of the great Ajax Heinz Stuy was the least appreciated. He also was the one disappearing quitely and without trace – at least for outsiders. He went to FC Amsterdam, replacing there Yongbloed, who, older than Stuy, was keeping his curious place in the national team and even moved to a better team. The German-born Stuy went down and nearing his retirement really plummeted – from champion of the world on club level, he was going to second division. Sad fate.

Sad fate for Feyenoord too – they finished 10th. The crisis was coming for some time – aging. Feyenoord was late in starting a new team and went down. Unlikely club went the other way – FC Volendam had a strong year, finishing 7th.

Standing from left: Dick Zwarthoed (masseur), Fred André, Hans Mol, Johnny van Wensveen, Wim Kwakman, Billy Bond, Frans Hoek, Jaap Jonk, Dick Bond, Cor Zonneveld, Kees Tol, Kees Guyt, Jan Mak (trainer)

Sitting: Harry Smal, Frank Kramer, Jaap Braan, Jaap Visser, Kees Molenaar, Piet Kkoning, Klaas Kwakman, Paul Bijvank, Jan Schokker, Dick de Boer.

Not exactly a promising side, Volendam had a strong season, but unlikely to be repeated, even less bettered.

The really strong clubs were the top four, leaving the rest 5 points behind. At the top, there were differences too, dividing the leaders into two groups. Twente, reaching their peak more or less two years earlier, was still running strong on inertia.

Solid squad, but with aging key players (Pahlplatz, van Ierssel, van der Vall, Drost, Boss), who were never more than second-stringers, compared to the really big stars of the early 1970s. The team had younger bright players – Wildschut, Thijssen, the Norwegian Thoresen, and to a point Arnold Muhren), but it was unlikely Twente had the means to keep them and build a new team led by them. So far, Twente was able to maintain strong position among the best, but it was not a real contender. Not yet in decline, but not rising either – the likelier direction was downhill. Twente finished 4th with 45 points.

Bronze medals went to a rising club: AZ’67 was impressive the year before and now did better. They were not contenders yet, but certainly ascending, stii not reaching their peak.

Bronze medals was not everything this year for the young club, so nothing more about them now. Except their kit – advertising Hitachi, but… this is a training, unofficial kit. So far there was no shirt advertisement in Holland – it was made legal later. Training – yes, may be used in friendlies, but not in official matches.

Second finished Ajax, practically the only challenger of the champions, and in the same time not really – they ended 4 points behind the top team and two points ahead of AZ’67. Under Tomislav Ivic the team improved indeed – champions in 1977 and second in 1978. The turn-over of the squad was finished: only Ruud Krol remained from the great Ajax and only Schrijvers, Geels, and van Dord from the feeble idea for keeping the club afloat by buying well-known names. New and younger men were rapidly their names now, but although the team was playing good and fast football it was not on the level of the earlier total winners. The squad was still too young for consistency and did not promise return to the glory days.

Silver – almost a failure for Ajax, always aiming high. A very promising team, but somewhat suggestive of mostly domestic success. Like AZ’67, shown here in unusual kit – yellow was unlikely colour.

PSV Eindhovem won their 7th title quite comfortably – they lost only games, tied 11, and won 21. With 53 points, they finished 4 points ahead of Ajax, having the best defense and third best attack – 74:21. Ajax outscored them by 11 goals, but had leakier defense. Eindhoven’s record once again confronted their reputation for recklessly attacking football scoring as much as possible – the key to their victory was seemingly the defensive line. Once again triumphal.

One more club using unusual colours this season – who would think Eindhoven dressed in green? Like AZ’67 and Ajax above, this was a reserve kit, but still going against tradition.

Of course, most of the time the champions played in their familiar red and white stripes and black shorts. And they were the most familiar Dutch team as well, still coached by Cees Rijvers. So far, PSV Eindhoven was successfully avoiding the crisis of generational change – transition was conducted smoothly and the new players blended well. Huub Stevens, Jan Poortvliet, Ernie Brandts, and the Swedish import Torbjorn Nilsson were the future, gradually replacing aging players. There were still plenty to go in the next few years: Lubse, van Beveren, Krijgh, van Kraay, but the balance was already achieved. The van de Kerkhof brothers were the key players and far from retirement. They were perhaps the top players in Holland at the time, representing the turn from the freewheeling, artistic total football of Ajax to physical, determined, serious German-like football. This was perhaps the greatest season in the history of PSV Eindhoven – winning the UEFA Cup as well as the domestic title. Finally with European trophy, shoulder to shoulder with the Ajax and Feyenoord at last. The modest Welsh player in their squad Nick Deacy certainly achieved more in Holland than he would ever in England.

Holland II Division

Holland – a mixed season. On one hand, Dutch football continued to be respected and associated with total football. The key figures of the revolution of the early 1970s were still considered the major world players. The national team almost won the World Cup in the summer of 1978. PSV Eindhoven won the UEFA Cup. The next generation was pushing ahead. On the other hand, the cluster of big stars was small and no new player was able to equal them. But the stars were getting older and retirement was coming close: Cruyff announced his own, van Hanegem was left out of the national team, some, like G. Muhren and Hulshoff practically disappeared from sight, and to a point even Johnny Rep stepped down a bit by going from Valencia to Bastia. There was feeling that the next generation was very different – much more physical, almost German in its approach to the game, lacking skill and imagination. Ajax was still trying to rebuild, and although there were signs of improvement, it was not yet a really strong team and not at all comparable to the great squad of the early 1970s. Feyenoord was major disappointment, hitting rock bottom, mostly because of keeping aging stars too long and postponing the start of new squad until it was too late. The rise of AZ’67 was a bit strange – the club combined veterans at the end of their playing days with bright new talent, but it was quite clear that the old players were the movers and shakers. PSV Eindhoven was the not the overwhelming team on European scale and it was clear for some time that they were not to be equal to Ajax and Feyenoord of their great years.

The Dutch, level minded and practical, knew well that a small country was capable of producing big pool of talent and the crème of the country’s football will be concentrated in 3-4 clubs. Behind them down the scale, things were very different. The second division obviously was no match for the top clubs, perhaps was far below most of the first level clubs. Too weak not so much in playing terms, but financially. Clubs like Cambuur.

Standing from left: Dick Lamsma, Jan Ferwerda, Harry vd Ham, Sjouke vd Heide, Gerrie Schouwenaar, André Roosenburg, Johan Groote,

Thomas Haan, Henk vd Vlag.

Sitting: Klaus Roosenburg, Wim Temming, Romke Popma, Jaap de Blaauw, Nol de Ruiter (coach),

Gojko Kuzmanovic, Henk de Groot, Andries Roorda, Hans Westerhof .

Cambuur was 12th, insignificant as almost every second division team. May be that was the reason Holland to run unique promotional system: only the winner of second division went up directly. The second promotional spot was contested after the end of the regular season by four clubs in a mini-league: the participants were the top clubs in different stages of the regular season. No other European country had similar formula and the wisdom of it may be questioned, but reality perhaps left other option. So, the mini-league at the end excluded Fortuna (Sittard) which finished 5th in the regular season. The 6th placed Groningen went to the promotional tournament, along with Wageningen (3th), Excelsior (Rotterdam) (4rd), and MVV Maastricht (2nd). All hopefuls were clearly stronger than the rest of the league – the 7th placed Willem II ended with 5 points less than Groningen – but MVV was much better than the other three – they competed for the first place to the end of the season, building a gap of 6 points between themselves and Wageningen. Which more or less informed the outcome of the promotional tournament: MVV won.

However, it was not clear victory, but clinched on better goal-difference. Excelsior was out of the race, the other three clubs ended with 7 points each. It was the 5:0 victory against Excelsior which gave the edge to MVV and made the lucky difference. MVV Maastricht was promoted – they played first division football before and now were returning from ‘exile’, but the question was were they able to survive? A question for the next season anyway.

There was no question about the winners – PEC Zwolle, another former member of first division, had a strong season, managing to beat MVV Maastricht at the end. 23 wins, 8 ties, 5 losses, 83-31 goal-difference – enough for first place.

Never impressive, PEC Zwolle still belonged more to first division than to second, so it was a relief for the fans. As for relative strength… Rinus Israel was playing his last years for the club where his illustrious career started. More or less, the only famous player in the second division – and his presence was seemingly making the big difference… a bit telling for the relative strength of the Dutch second division. As for top flight, certainly the veteran was not enough for playing significant role. Still, it was great to see the veteran influencing his team to victory.

Austria The Cup

The Cup final in a way completed a season giving a candy to everyone of the best Austrian clubs. Swarowaski-Wacker and VOEST (Linz) reached the final. VOEST was fifth in the league, still going strong, but not really at the level of their champion year a couple of seasons earlier. They were also the club practically without stars when compared to the other top teams. The first leg of the final was played in Linz. 8000 people attended, a modest number, at first glance, but one has to remember this was Austria – actually, big attendance for the small and not particularly crazy about football country. The hosts opened in the 32nd minute, courtesy of Michael Lorenz. The visitors equalized by Welzl in the middle of the second half, in the 64th minute. No more goals were scored, a tied game without a winner.

The second leg was equally competitive, but in Innsbruck the hosts had the natural advantage. Slightly bigger audience – 8500 – naturally, most of them were Swarovski-Wacker supporters. However, the visitors silenced Tirol early – Hagmayr opened in the 5th minute. The hosts reacted quickly and equalized two minutes later – P. Scwartz scored in the 7th minute. Just before the end of the first half they went ahead thanks to Peter Koncilia. The efforts of both teams in the second half produced nothing and the match ended 2-1. VOEST lost.

Coming close to success, but only that. Brave, still trying to stay among the best Austrian clubs, but, realistically speaking, playing at the final was the most VOEST were able of.

Swarovski-Wacker were not overwhelming winners, but having more class was enough of a difference. A fourth cup for the club, which in a single decade became one of the most successful clubs in Austrian football history.


So far, Swarovski-Wacker won five titles – 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, and 1977. And four cups – 1970, 1973, 1975, and the fresh 1978. The most successful club of the country of the 1970s, but the peak was mat be two or three years ago. Unlike Austria and Rapid, Swarovski-Wacker was no longer rising, but was only stable. Like their competitors, they also had a great player – Bruno Pezzey, already called ‘the new Beckenbauer’. Perhaps that was the whole difference – attacking football was prevailing: Rapid had fantastic striker, Krankl; Austria – fantastic midfielder, Prohaska; and having fantastic defender was just not enough in the championship. Swarovski-Wacker maintained position by winning the Cup, but it was already clear that the key players of the team – Pezzey, F. Koncilia, and Welzl – were not going to stay for long. Behind them were solid, experienced, but not extraordinary players going old. The signs of approaching decline… Swarovski-Wacker was not a contender in the championship and the cup was a bit of a consolation prize. Still, a victory is a victory, and a cup – an important trophy. Nine trophies since 1970! And a bit of novelty – the colours of Swarovski-Wacker are green and black. Yet, in the 1970s they often played in white. This year – red and white.

Austria The Championship

Austria enjoyed excellent year, may be the best since 1950s. International success on both national team and club level, a number of players recognized as major international stars. Small, but talented generation of player, perhaps benefiting of the reduction of the Austrian league: now they were concentrated in fewer clubs, competing between themselves. It was the most Austria could do – a small country, there was simply no way to produce big quantity of top players and maintain large league. Second division was already a different world, hardly having anything in common with the top teams. It was standard 16-team league and it was clear that most members had no place in first division. Some had no place even in second level. The divisions were overwhelming: the three teams in the relegation zone were clear outsiders – ASV Stockerau were last with 16 points, 15th was ASK Salzburg with 17 points, and 14th was SC Tullin with 18 points. The club at the safe 13th place, SCA Saint Veit, never worried – they finished with 7 points more than SCA Saint Veit. Most of the league was similar to SCA Saint Veit – small clubs, which even if they reached promotion, it would have been useless. There was no fight for the single promotion… Austria (Salzburg), the only club with a chance of surviving in first division, was too much for the rest of league: they lost only 3 matches and finished 10 points above the nearest ‘competitors’. First division obviously concentrated everything the Austrians had.

Which means 10 clubs… five of them were located in Vienna. Two represented Graz and two – Linz. Austrian football was practically concentrated in four cities, which given the low attendance and limited money, was actually good – local derbies attracted more viewers and traveling coasts were down. The teams played 4 times against each other, which was not exactly a blessing: yes, the best players had to be in good form and benefited from constantly playing against each other, but it was a bit boring and familiar – same teams playing again and again. But the reduced league seemingly worked – at least, there were no meaningless matches, everybody had to give their best to avoid trouble. There was no comfortable, sleepy middle zone. Escaping relegation was on everybody’s mind for the most of the season – at the end, the final table reveals that only 4 clubs were really safe. The unfortunate last place was decided by goal-difference, Admira Wacker and Linzer ASK finishing with 28 points. Admira Wacker was -22; LASK ended -23… one goal was the whole difference between relegation and survival. LASK went down.

Relegated clubs almost never have much of a squad and LASK was no exception: two unknown Yugoslavians, Nebojsa Vuckovic and Miroslav Vukasinovic, two still only promising talents – Klaus Lindenberger and Helmut Koglberger, and one aging and over the hill veteran – Walter Gebhardt. Not much, but other clubs were not having very different squads either. Perhaps a little worse than the rest, perhaps a bit weaker team, perhaps a bit unlucky… LASK was not a hopeless outsider, compered to other clubs, but down they went.

The top four were familiar and constant in those years. They also built a 5 point difference between themselves and the lower six clubs. Three of the best competed to the end for better place – 4 points separated second from 4th, but it was entirely expected and according to each relative strength. Sturm (Graz), the weakest, ended 4th.

Swarovski Wacker (Innsbruck) took bronze, having a point more than Sturm. Yes, Bruno Pezzey was in the squad, already named ‘the new Beckenbauer’, but the peak of Swarovski Wacker was may be two years ago. It was solid, experienced, but it was also clear that the top players – Pezzey, F. Koncilia, and Welzl – must go to other, bigger and stronger clubs, almost surely abroad.

Second finished Rapid (Vienna). No surprise either – traditional favourite, the club with most titles in the country, and also improving in the last few years.

Rapid was rising, but was not at its peak yet. It was still the second best and finished accordingly the season – managed to built a small 3-point from the pursuers, but lagged 16 points behind the champions. Still in need of few top quality players, still shaping. And it was not an easy task – Hans Krankl was already among the very best European players. It was unlikely Rapid can keep him – and it did not: after the end of the season Krankl went to Barcelona. But what a season he had!

Krankl scored 41 goals in 34 total league matches: more than one goal per match average. He alone score more than 50% of Rapid’s goals – 41 out of 76. The next best scorer not only achieved only a half of Krankl’s numbers, but the combined record of the second and third year’s scorers was still less than his – Hans Pirkner with 20, and Thomas Paritz with 15, both of Austria (Vienna) together was 6 goals short. Astonishing season for the 24-years old Krankl – no wonder Barcelona eyed him and quickly grabbed him to replace no other but Cruyff.

Fantastic Krankl, but he was outdone by clearly the best Austrian team of that time – Austria (Vienna) had their finest season if not ever, than at least in the 1970s. A peak year, when everything clicked right. Supreme in the domestic league and excellent in Europe – the first Austrian team to reach the final in European club tournament. Austria lost the final, but was absolutely superior at home.

Austria at its best: from left: Baumeister, Gasselich, Obermayer, Daxbacher, Drazan, Prohaska, Jozef Sara, Pirkner, Morales, Baumgartner, Robert Sara.

A carefully made in the last few years squad, climbing up season after season, reaching its peak. Swarovski Wacker had Pezzey and Rapid – Krankl, but Austria had Prohaska, the fine, elegant, imaginative midfielder. He, in turn, had better teammates than Pezzey and Krankl. Austria lost only 3 matches this season. They 23. They scored the most goals – 77. And naturally received the least – 34 in 36 championship games. Less than goal per match. Austria had no match, nobody came even close. Absolutely superior.


The Cup tournament confirmed in a way the status quo of the season: Lokomotiv and Torpedo reached the ½ finals, opposing Shakhter and Dinamo (Kiev). Moscow against Ukraine. Both Moscow clubs were often better in cup tournaments than in the regular championship. They fought as much as they could, but were no match to the stronger Ukrainian clubs – Lokomotiv lost both legs with Shakhter, 0:2 and 0:1. So Torpedo – twice 1:2 against Dinamo. All Ukrainian final, opposing the first and the second ranking clubs in Ukraine, and the second against the third in the championship. The final opposed teams with different approaches – speedy, attacking Dinamo to waiting for occasional counter-attack Shakhter. Dinamo dominated from the very start and for many observers performed at the almost forgotten by now powerful style of 1975. Shakhter was quickly pushed back in their own half and appeared confused. Logically, it should have been an easy victory for Dinamo, but they missed opportunities, Shakther regrouped into populous defensive wall in their own half, which reduced the physical superiority of Dinamo – they had to run a lot, but Shakhter much less. Dinamo dominated, but was unable to score. Then Shakther organized a rare counter-attack, ending with long high ball in front of Dinamo’s net, where Vitaly Starukhin was like fish in water – arguably the best Soviet centre-forward in the air, his header ended in the net.

Vitaly Starukhin celebrates his goal in the 15th minute. Baltacha (number 3) was blamed for the goal – it was considered he made a tiny mistake, permitting Starukhin to get the ball first. Contrary to what was going on the pitch, Shakhter was leading. They had one chance and used it. The match continued as it started – Dinamo increased the speed, attacked constantly, but the result was against them. Shakhter just cleared the ball away and, perhaps too early, started to kill time. Dinamo finally equalized in the 55th minute – Blokhin scored with a header, something rare for him.

Blokhin equalizes.

Justice was restored… matches like this one are always frustrating: one team plays, the other does not, and it is right these attacking to win. And it is very annoying when they do not… Shakhter had too chances during this match – the first they scored. The second arrived in the 72nd minute, when again Starukhin was in perfect position to score, after Reshko and Baltacha clashed with each other and both fell on the ground. Starukhin, may be taken by surprise, missed the net… and almost everybody watching enjoyed the failure: it would not have been right Shakhter to win. The match ended 1-1. The extra time was the same – Dinamo dominated, Shakther desperately defended. But right after the start of overtime Shakhter was caught off guard: their goalkeeper Degterev was slow to react to Blokhin’s shot and the ball ended in the net. Nothing changed to the end and Dinamo won the cup. Justice prevailed. Dinamo was praised to the sky – may be the journalists were carried away too far: Dinamo deserved to win, were certainly better, but their dominance was quite empty. They created opportunities , but failed to score. Goalkeepeing mistake gave them the victory. Shakhter practically crossed the midfield line only twice – and scored once. If Starukhin did not make mistake in their second chance, the result would have been 2-1 for them. Dinamo played well, but scoring was a big problem – and this problem was not seen at all by observers concerned only with justice.

Perhaps a fine moment of unity – Blokhin with the Cup. He scored both goals for Dinamo, the hero of the final. Except for players and fans of Shakhter, everybody was happy to see this picture: Dinamo clearly deserved to win. Forget about the game dragging into overtime and Shakhter almost winning with two shots towards Dinamo’s net. As for statistics, it was Dinamo’s 5th Cup.

The winners, hailed as coming back to the great football they played in 1975: standing from left: Victor Yurkovsky, Valery Zuev, Stefan Reshko, V. Malyuta – team doctor, V. Lobanovsky – coach, Mikhail Fomenko, M. Koman – head coach, responsible for disciplinary work, Vladimir Veremeev, Victor Kolotov, Leonid Buryak, Aleksandr Berezhnoy, G. Spektor – administrator, A. Puzach – assistant coach.

First row: V. Evlantiev – masseur, Vladimir Onishchenko, Oleg Blokhin, Sergey Boltacha, Aleksandr Khapsalis, Vladimir Bessonov, Vladimir Lozinsky.

In retrospect, this was a ‘provisional team’ – clearly Lobanovsky was trying to make a new team, replacing the heroes of 1975. Some of the great old squad was still present, of course – Blokhin, Kolotov, Veremeev, Onishchenko, Reshko, Fomenko, Buryak, and the ‘eternal’ reserve Zuev. But the days of most were numbered in part because of age (Reshko, Fomenko, and suffering from injuries Veremeev, and Konkov, almost gone already), and partly because Lobanovsky was not exactly happy with some and wanted better players (Onishchenko, Zuev, Kolotov). The new talent, obviously the kind of players Lobanovsky was searching for, was at hand – Bessonov, Berezhnoy, Baltacha (who was called Boltacha at that time), Khapsalis. The group of promissing youngsters was actually larger and included the goalkeeper Yury Sivukha, Aleksander Boyko, Lozinsky, and to a point the regular goalkeeper Yurkovsky. But the youngsters were not only too young and inexperienced – they were also suspect and most of them did not satisfy Lobanovsky. Actually, they failed to develop into stars – practically only Bessonov, Berezhnoy, and Baltacha fulfilled the great promise. Some were already suspect and Lobanovsky was still trying to find really reliable players for some posts, particularly a goalkeeper and right full-back. Yurkovsky did not last, nor his back-up Sivukha, not Lozinsky. Zuev was to go, Boyko was to be given a few more chances, but he never became a starter and disappeared without a trace. Khapsalis was almost a constant disappointment for Lobanvosky – not because he played badly, or was lazy, or anything – only because Lobanovsky needed something else, something Khapsalis did not have. In a way, Khapsalis’ talent was wasted, for he was kept in Kiev for years, but played little and was constantly under criticism. It was not the dream-team Lobanovsky envisioned. Most of the ‘failures’ would have been perfect in other teams, but were constantly found wanting in Dinamo. Some were not so good anyway. The next great Dinamo was not here yet – and was not to be made in the next 3 or 4 years. Yet, it was the strongest squad in USSR.

USSR I Division

First division, supposedly the best of Soviet football. The league was to be of 18 teams next season and only one team, the very last, was to be relegated. Easier life for many clubs… the new rule of only 8 ties providing points was bothersome, for it went against old, deep habits to play for 0-0, but perhaps a remedy was found just as quickly: if before clubs shared points, quietly tying matches and scoring early goals when there were points for scoreless ties, now it was just a bit of a gamble, but not much: what was needed was only an agreement for exchanged home victories – you get 2 points at home, then I got my 2 points when you are visiting. How big corruption was in Soviet football nobody can tell, but the new rule suddenly changed the picture: for the first time since the late 1960s ties were few. Also few were the clubs slow to adapt to the new reality: five clubs lost points because of extra ties. Torpedo (Moscow) suffered most – they tied 11 matches and lost 3 points. Goal scoring did not improve, though, casting doubt on the effectiveness of the new rule – the idea was to open up the stale Soviet football, to make it modern, and that meant more than reduction of ties: attacking football, aimed at victory, demanding goals. At least in Europe. In USSR change of rules was needed to force clubs to even think of winning. The change worked, perhaps not to the greatest expectations, but worked. What did not work was a league of too many unambitious clubs – and this fact makes the decision of enlargement of the league very strange. What was hoped was unclear – bigger league meant safety for various clubs concerned only with one thing: to be in the league. At least two benefited immediately – since only one club was relegated this season, by hook and crook 4 weak clubs survived. They came dangerously close to the 16th place, but at the end took a deep breath of relief: Kairat (Alma-Ata), 12th with 25 points, Neftchi (Baku), 13th with 23 points, Ararat (Erevan), 14th with 22 points and Lokomotiv (Moscow), 15th with 21 points too. Lokomotiv was unlucky to tie a 9th match and lost a point as well – under standard rules they would have been a place above Ararat, with 23 points. But all those survived – Dnepr (Dnepropetrovsk) got the short stick. They earned only 21 points and finished 16th – last and relegated. Not a team to be missed… The rest of the league was positioned pretty much as ever – the Moscow clubs in the upper half of the table; smaller provincials in the lower half, Chernomoretz (Odessa) and Zenit (Leningrad) right in the middle, but most teams were fairly equal in strength, weakness, and lack of ambition, so no big gaps between their points appeared. Zarya (Voroshilovgrad) and Ararat (Erevan) were steadily going down since each club won the title in the first half of the decade and the decline continued. Perhaps Torpedo (Moscow) disappointed – they finished 8th and even if the rules gave points for every tie, no matter how many, they were not to climb higher than 6th place. Yet, Torpedo was well rounded and balanced squad, playing nice football, one of the best squads in the league – or so it looked like.

Crouching from left: Petrov – masseur, Khrabrostin, Filatov, Sakharov, P. Yakovlev, Vanyushkin, Khudiev.

Second row: Zarapin, Mironov, N. Vassiliev, Prigoda, Buturlakin, Nikonov, Suchilin, Zhupikov, Ivanov – coach.

Why this team was not a title contender, but mid-table finisher is a bit mysterious. It may have been because of the difficult character of the former great Soviet star Valentin Ivanov, who was demanding, but not so good coach. Tense relations between coach and team are often decisive factor, but there was perhaps more important reason: Torpedo never had the means of the other Moscow clubs and was not able to recruit or keep the best players. This squad was was typical – good players, but not extraordinary ones. Well balanced team, but without a big star capable of leading and inspiring his teammates. Individually, every player was perhaps ranking third or forth in the country at his position. They were respected, some even were included in the national team, but it was a team of second-raters and such teams may be solid and occasionally win, as Torpedo did in the fall championship of 1976, but usually they stay exactly in mid-table. A bit sad, a bit annoying – Torpedo started the year well, winning the winter indoor tournament in Moscow, thus rising hopes. On grass they did not do much.

Much better performed Spartak (Moscow). They finished 5th, which was hardly a success, considering the history of the club. Yet, it was, for they just came back from Second Division, the team was radically remade, and this was the first season of the new Spartak in top flight. They did well and were met with approval – the new Spartak had fresh approach, played attractive football, and the players were noticed.

Dinamo (Moscow) was 4th – they lost the bronze medals because of the new rule, having 10 ties. Not very impressive, Dinamo stayed on top largely because most of the other clubs were weak. Above them were Shakhter (Donetzk), a representative of the fresh air in Soviet football. Shakhter was similar to Torpedo – always in the shadow of Dinamo (Kiev), they had limited choice of recruiting top players. But good selection built bit by bit a descent team. Not top players, but unlike Torpedo, the Ukrainians had few strong personalities, particularly the centre-forward Vitaly Starukhin, providing leadeship and inspiration. Perhaps they were not able to reach for the title, but came close, were dangerous team, and whoever underestimated them paid a bitter price.

So, at the end two clubs competed for the title. The final table is misleading – the champions finished 4 points ahead of the silver medalists, who were just a point better than the third placed Shakhter. If all points counted Dinamo (Moscow) would be third, just a point behind the second. It looked like very tied race, judging by the final points, but in reality it was a race between two clubs – Dinamo (Kiev) and Dinamo (Tbilisi). It was also very unusual race – Dinamo (Kiev) started sluggishly and were in midtable for quite a long time, but eventually shifted into another gear, steadily climbed up , and if the championship was longer very likely they were to win it. As it was, they paid the price of their sluggish first third of the season. Of course, Lobanovsky – indirectly – argued that his training plan was fine and if the schedule was not against them, Dinamo had to win. Stupid Federation scheduled the season wrongly, starting it when Lobanovsky’s team was not yet in top form, and finishing it right when Dinamo was at its peak. It was perfect excuse, for his plan aimed at reaching top form one or two months after the start of the season – no matter what schedule the Federation made, it would be wrong by such reasoning. And just in case this excuse failed, Lobanovsky had another, unbeatable trump in his sleeve: irresponsible players not following his instructions. Can’t argue with that… argue, not argue, Dinamo was trailing the whole season and finished second.

Their namesakes from Tbilisi argued nothing – they took the lead early and stayed on top to the end of the season, losing first place once or twice, but never slipping lower than second. The competition dropped back, losing steam quickly, and Kiev spend half the season simply recovering the ground they lost in the beginning. Dinamo Tbilisi were old darling, always a pleasant and attractive exception of the stiff and dull Soviet football. Highly skilful, artistic, entertaining, attacking team for years, always considered a high scoring team, which did not correspond to their actual records, but the belief was powerful. So, it was very nice to see them on top. Dinamo were constantly strong, but so far won the title only once, in the distant 1964. Their second was much deserved and enjoyed.

The champions, almost close to their perfect line-up: standing from left: Vitaly Darasselia, David Gogia, Aleksander Chivadze, Vakhtang Koridze, Revaz Chelebadze, Manuchar Machaidze-captain, David Kipiani.

First row: Vladimir Gutzaev, Gocha Machaidze, Tengiz Sulakvelidze, Ramaz Shengelia, Tamaz Kostava.

A nice blend of experience and young talent, coming close to its peak. Perhaps the central defender Shota Hinchagashvili (missing on the photo) was the most important player this year. The former left full-back was successfully moved to the middle of defense and there he flourished – tall, elegant, very dependable centre-back with excellent vision, he commandeered not only the defensive line, but also organized attacks. He was paired with Piruz Kanteladze (also not on the photo), a mighty duo in the center of defense. The full-backs were another story – the initial regulars suffered from heavy injuries: Nodar Hizanishvili, followed by Ilya Ruhadze. David Mudziri lost his form and also had to be replaced. Thus, Gocha Machaidze was moved back from midfield, and the little known reserve Tamaz Kostava took the right side position. The improvisation worked excellently. The experienced 30-years old David Gogia was stable between the goalposts – Dinamo was fine in the back, but its strength was midfield and the strikers. Koridze and Daraselia were the main power, particularly Daraselia, and the captain Manuchar Machaidze. Depending on occasion, Chivadze played as defensive midfielder or Kipiani moved a bit back. Ahead were Gutzaev on the right wing and Shengelia on the left, with Kipiani in the centre – not a typical centre-forward, but rather coming from deeper back, and combining excellent scoring skills with playmaking. Unpredictable, constant danger for opposite defenses, operating on wide field, a magician with the ball, and great passer, Kipiani was if not the best Soviet player, at least the most attractive and creative one. But he was left behind by constantly improving Shengelia this year, who was voted player of the year. Shengelia was not the only new big star – Chivadze and Sulakvelidze were rapidly improving, Gabelia was competing with Gogia. Revaz Chelebadze and Vakhtang Kopaleyshvili were also pushing for a place in the starting eleven. Most were young players – a big hope for the future, and best of all – not an empty promise. Chivadze, Sulakvelidze, Kipiani, Shengelia became regular national team players for many years. Hinchagashvili, Gabelia, Chelebadze, Gutzaev, and others also played for USSR.

The coach Nodar Akhalkatzi was the maker of this team – as a native Georgian, he was best for a Georgian team: he understood his countrymen, he shared their free-wheeling, creative,and joyous approach to the game. He did not stifle them with geometric tactical schemes, but let them improvise and play as they felt. And this was the weakness of the team… the players loved to keep the ball and were often carried away by flashy dribbling. Opportunities were often sacrificed in the name of artistry. Gutzaev was the main offender – may be the reason he never became a true big star, and rarely was included in the national team of USSR. As most technical teams, Dinamo were not tough physical fighters and had difficulty responding to close physical play. They were also moody and if the things were not going their way, often broke down. As a whole, Dinamo was a bit naïve squad, lacking tactical variety – what they played, no matter against whom, was essentially the same attacking technical football. Akhalkatzi was seen as the prime reason for that – may be rightly, may be not, but he was considered rather plain coach, unable or unwilling of introduction of tactical variety. Disciplined and physical European teams usually managed to block Dinamo, often helped by the individualistic tendencies of Gutzaev. Dinamo Kiev too. More or less, it was enough to cover closely the Georgian players, to leave them without free space. But not many teams, especially in USSR, were able to do that – Dinamo was not overwhelming leader this season, yet, consistent, prevailing, collecting points, and in great form. Worthy champions and great news for the future, for they were generally young and very talented. 17 wins and 8 ties gave them the title. Dinamo lost only 5 matches and no matter how strong Kiev were in the fall, still Tbilisi finished with 4 points more than the enemy.