Yugoslavia I Division

Yugoslavia traditionally had the strongest championship among Communist countries and this season was no exception. Some clubs may not had players equal to their squads from the 1970s, 1960s, or 1950s, but there was still plenty of talent. Except one outsider, the league was tough and fairly equal – 7 points divided the 17th from the 6th at the end – and 4 teams competed for the title. There were ups and downs, of course – Velez (Mostar) was seemingly fading, Crvena zvezda had miserable season, but Radnicki (Nis) was still running strong, Vardar (Skopje) was improving and little known Dinamo (Vinkovci) managed to stay in the league at least for one more year.

Galenika (Zemun) was the outsider, finishing last with 20 points and winning just matches during the season. Top row from left: Vranjes, Petrovic, Tupajic, Memisi, Bogicevic, Baros, Pejovic, Milinkovic, Panic, Kostic – coach.

Middle row: assistant coach Radovanovic, Pavicevic, Batkoski, Kalusevic, Micic, Stojadinovic, Lacmanovic, Cikic, Zivkovic, Nikolic – physio.

Sitting: Dimitrijevic, Celar, Dujkovic, Cabrinovic – coach, Santrac, Bankovic, Gajin, Curcin.

The league debutant was clearly not up to the task. Essentially, Galenika did what every small club knew to the top league did: depended on famous veterans. But Santrac and Dujkovic were at their best 10 years ago and were not enough help now. Certainly not enough to keep Galenika in the first division. Perhaps Galenika was the most bearded squad in Estern Europe, if not the whole Europe, but this novelty helped not.

OFK Beograd, in decline for some time, reached the bottom – they were unable to rebuild after their good squad of the early 1970s aged and the inevitable happened: they finished 17th with 28 points and were relegated.

Osijek was happy to survive, taking 16th place with 29 points.

So were fellow Croatians of Rijeka – 15th with 30 points.

Buducnost (Titograd) was 14th with 31 points. Standing from left: Kuzeljevic, Vorotovic, Nikitovic, J. Mirocevic, Vlahovic, Drobnjak

Crouching: Batrovic, Ljumovic, Radonjic, Radinovic, Hadziosmanovic.

Velez (Mostar) finished above Buducnost only because of better goal-difference. It was alarming drop, but also inevitable – one of the best Yugoslav teams of the 1970s aged and badly needed rebuilding. Third row from left: Tojaga, Hadžiabdić, S. Jurić, Karabeg, Marić, M. Mulahasanović, Grozdanić, Jakirović, Tanović.

Middle row: F. Džidić, Štilić, Međedović, Tuce, Rahimić, Vukoje, Čolić (assistant coach), Vučković (director).

Sitting: Kajtaz, Kalajdžić, Bijedić, Milutinović (coach), Bajević, Mičić, Vladić, Đurasović.

Dinamo (Vinkovci) did well – they survived the trying season, which was pretty much the best they could do. Also with 31 points, but better goal-difference placed them above Velez – 12th. It was unlikely the small club will be able to recruit strong players, so the future was exactly as the presence: fighting to stay in the league.

FK Sarajevo was 11th with 32 points, but there was no reason to worry – the club traditionally fluctuated rather widely from top to bottom. Not a bad squad, so most likely they could be better next year.

FK Sarajevo’s neighbours and rivals Zeljeznicar managed to finish just above – 10th with 33 points – and were in very similar situation. They also fluctuated widely as a rule of thumb and also had promising squad, expected to play stronger football soon.

Vojvodina (Novi Sad) – 9th with 34 points and nothing strange about it: they have been mid-table club for quite some time.

With 35 points Vardar (Skopje) took 8th place, but the usually lowly club was impreoving and climbing up. Standing from left: Dragi Setinov, Zoran Banković, Aleksandar Nedev, Đore Jovanovski, Blagoj Georgiev, Kočo Dimitrovski.

Front row: Petar Georgievski, Borče Micevski, Toni Savevski, Gordan Zdravkov, Stojmir Urošević.

Olimpija (Ljubljana) finished 7th also with 35 points. Standing from left: Lazar Radevic,Srecko Katanec,Janez Hudarin,Zdenko Iskra,Zvone Tercic,Ljubisa Dalanovic

Front row: Peter Amersek,Branko Bosnjak,Mihajlo Petrovic,Marko Elsner,Vili Amersek.

Nothing special, but at least locally the team fueled hopes that the good days of the early 1970s may come back – there was strong core of players: the Amersek brothers, Elsner, and especially Srecko Katanec, rapidly becoming big star. However, it was difficult to maintain big hopes – Marko Elsner – or Elzner – moved to Crvena zvezda.

Good season for Sloboda (Tuzla) – they were 6th with 35 points, but ahead of Olimpija and Vardar on superior goal-difference. Standing from left: coaches Omar Jusić and Faruk Pašić, Omerović, Mursel Kovačević, Miljanović, Memišević, Ibrić, Zahirović, ?, Nazif Šehić.

Crouching: Smajlović, Tomić, Mersad Kovačević, Cvjetković, Šećerbegović, Sabitović – physio.

Nothing exceptional, but Sloboda never had many exceptional players.

Very disappointing season for Crvena zvezda – 5th with 37 points. There was no obvious reason for Crvena zvezda finishing low – the squad looked like the strongest in the country – and most likely was just temporary flop.

Radnicki (Nis), still running strong, finished 4th with 40 points. Perhaps not a true title contender, but coming close. Top row from left: Panajotovic, Aleksic, Vojinovic, Bojovic, Avramovic, ?

Middle row: Dimovski, Nenkovic, Obradovic, Gavrilovic, Stevanovic, Milenkovic, Nikolic, Stojiljkovic

Front row: Halilovic, Radosavljevic, Antic, Djordjevic, Savic.

Dinamo (Zagreb) took 3rd place, but there was no shame to it – they were title contenders to the end and lost second place only on worse goal-difference. Third row: Srećko Bogdan, Snježan Cerin, Vladimir Deželić, Tomislav Ivković, Zlatan Arnautović, Eddie Krnčević, Mustafa Arslanović, Ante Rumora, Dragan Bošnjak.

Middle row: Rudolf Belin (assistant coach), Marijan Vlak, Željko Hohnjec, Hrvoje Dragičević, Emil Dragičević, Zvonko Marić, Mladen Munjaković, Ismet Hadžić, Josip Čačković (physio).

Sitting: Džemal Mustedanagić, Drago Dumbović, Zlatko Kranjčar, Stjepan Deverić, Miroslav Blažević (coach), Velimir Zajec, Marko Mlinarić, Milivoj Bračun, Zvezdan Cvetković, Borislav Cvetković.

A winning squad, very well build and talented – and at its prime.

With 43 points, Hajduk (Split) ended 2nd – goal-difference placed it higher than Dinamo (Zagreb). Hajduk was the usual candidate for the title and fought to the end. By now, there were only two members of the fantastic squad of the first half of the 1970s – Salov and Rozic. All others were gone to play abroad or retired, by the club continued to produce and recruit strong players.

Partizan (Belgrade) clinched their 9th title with 45 points. They managed to win a race against tough opposition and that was great. Familiar too, but after 1965 Partizan was never quite able to build a team of the kind they had in the 1950s and early 1960s. They were always somewhat short when compared to Crvena zvezda and Hajduk. Not quite the top players. Titles came rarely as a result and hardly ever repeated the next year. This squad was indeed strong and talented, but betrayed also the familiar problem – to every single player Partizan had, the opposition – including Crvena zvezda – had matching or better player. Partizan did well in the tough race between equals, in a battle which depended not just who play better, but who made fewer mistakes, but it was unlikely this vintage will build a dynasty – just like the once before and back to mid-60s.

Yugoslavia II Division

A little glimpse of the lower levels of Yugoslavian football – clubs, hardly heard of played there, some of them introduced to the outside world only after the disintegration of Yugoslavia after 1990.

Like Slovenian NK Koper.

Or Macedonian Pelister (Bitolja). Standing from left: Nadj, Blazic, Kanatlaroski, Kosic, Gerasimov, Ljukovcan.

First rpw: Ristovski, Husein, Kitanovski, Nastevski, Mijovic.

Or Serbian FK Kikinda.

There were few vaguely familiar names, for they played a bit in the first division.

Clubs like Sutjeska (Niksic)

and Spartak (Subotica). Those were the likeliest candidates for promotion, although there was the occasional solid second-tier club going up.

Iskra (Bugojno) was one such team at the moment. Standing from left: Skoro, Glamocak, Salkic,Ceremidzic,Radovic, Petrinovic.

First row: Omerhodzic, Idic, Zjajo, Pavlic, Mirkovic.

Napredak (Krusevac) was one of the possible candidates for return to top flight, but failed to do it. Yet, the winners of Second Division were two of the usual suspects – former first division members.

FK Pristina (Pristina), going for one more try to establish itself among the best, and

Celik (Zenica), which remembered much better days and hardly belonged to second level, if tradition was taken into account. Standing from left: Ibrahim Zukanović, Nikola Mojović, Rasim Ahmetović, Zlatko Maršalek, Enes Bešić, Nenad Vidaković.

Crouching: Jerko Tipurić, Zoran Milidrag, Rade Radoš, Dragan Vlaški, Spaso Papić.

Well, good luck to the winners next year.

USSR the Cup

When it comes to looking for general tendencies, Soviet Cup is particularly difficult and slippery subject. It had frequently changed formats and time tables, including the finals. The peculiar Northern climate clashing with international football pretty much made for tow separate seasons: often the Cup was played in the familiar European fall-spring schedule, but the championship was spring-fall, with most games played in the summer. In contrast, the Cup was largely squeezed in the winter and early spring. Final were played in all kind of season, in different months, but international games made finals in the fall problematic – the winner was unable to join the current Cup Winners Cup, but the next year’s and who knows in what shape the Soviet represent will be by then. It was safe bet to expect Dinamo (Kiev) and Spartak (Moscow) to be competitive a year later, but for smaller clubs it was not likely: SKA (Rostov) won the Cup in 1981, but by the time they joined the Cup Winners Cup it was not just 1982, but the winners were relegated and struggling in second division. Not the same team at all. Finding the right time for the Cup became big challenge – on one hand, winter games meant that many teams, even traditionally strong ones, were out of shape, for the season was officially over and their players were taking a break. Going back to parallel the regular season meant too many games and no enough time for all of them. So, the Cup meandered from one form to another, changing almost every year. This year the final was in May – a time, when many teams were not yet in their best form, for it was still early stage of the championship. Which ended in November – to combine a spring winner with late fall one is hardly convincing argument when trying to see tendencies, but still two things could be safely claimed: Ukrainian clubs lead Soviet football and smaller clubs were succesfully rubbing shoulders with traditional powerhouses, even pushing them back. The final opposed Metalist (Kharkov) to Shakhter (Donetzk). Neither team was particularly exciting at the moment, yet, they reached the final . The finalists lacked famous players, but ambition compensated for that – the final was hardly memorable game, but it was fairly equal and difficult to win. And that is all that matters for a final.

The Metalist goalkeeper Yu. Sivukha was unable to prevent V. Grachev (Shakhter) from scoring. Two players, who were becoming familiar names around USSR. Sivukha appears awkwardly positioned here, which may be a good illustration of what happened – more experienced Shakther won 2-1. Tiny mistakes made the difference and Metalist, one of the emerging teams at the time, was unable to win first trophy.

After the fact, it is easy to say Metalist lost for lack of experience. They came back to first division only recently after spending many dark years not just in second division, but in the third. As one of already many Ukrainian clubs in the top league, they had little chance for recruiting top talent – they ranked quite low in the Ukrainian pyramid – not only behind Dinamo (Kiev), but behind Shakhter, Chernomoretz, Dnepr. Even second division clubs like Zarya and Karpaty were not ready suppliers – Metalist had to depend on home-grown talent and whatever other clubs discarded. No wonder their best known players were those who played for other clubs before – Potochnyak, Boyko, Kramarenko. Getting old second-raters… so, Metalist employed pretty much the same approach as Dnepr: collective physical and often rough play. It worked, but not at the final against seasoned and well versed in typical Ukrainian tactics Shakhter. But it was good experience for Metalist, boosting their moral and ambitions. Just it was not their prime time yet.

Shakhter won its 4th Cup. Crouching from left: Sopko, Elinskas, Yashtenko, Pokidin, Akimenko, Pyanykh, Sokolovsky, Shturlak, Parhomenko.

Standing: Nossov – coach, Kalinin – team chief, Grachev, Yurchenko, Popovich, Morozov, Simonov, Rudakov, Varnavsky, Ovchinnikov, Radenko, Kutzev, Glubokov – docter, Tkachenko – masseur, Drozdenko – assistant coach.

Shakhter almost specialized in playing for the Cup – they kind of lost their leading position, achieved in the second half of the 1970s, but still remained the second best Ukrainian club. The formula was their own – usually, they had 2-3 leading veterans in great form, a group of 3-4 mid-aged strong players and few promising youngsters. As years went, the veterans stepped down, replaced by the former mid-agers and young talent transformed into solid and dependable players at their prime. Hardly ever they had particularly outstanding players attracting preying ayes – rather, their top players were a bit unusual – recognized as wonderful, but not fitting into other schemes for one or another reason and Shakhter was able to keep them. Of course, they were losing players too – goalkeepers brothers Chanov, Reznik, who went to Spartak (Moscow), but the club was able to replace quickly the losses with similarly good players. So, this vintage was lead by veterans Sokolovksy and Simonov, with solid and experienced group behind them – Rudakov, Varnavsky, Elinskas, Puanykh, and talented yougsters pushing up – Grachev, Yurchenko, Radenko, Popovich. Not a squad strong enough to win the the title, but able to get the Cup – with the result that Shakhter became the most successful club not based in the capital cities of Moscow, Kiev, and Tbilisi.

And at the end of the season, it was complete dominance of Ukrainian and second-rate clubs – Dnepr and Shakhter. Perhaps 1982 was the year the ‘provincials’ really reached the top of the Soviet football pyramid and stayed there, holding their ground against big capital-city clubs. The 1980s reached a parity, if not actual dominance of the smaller clubs. For the first time Soviet football was lead by secondary provincial clubs – and it was not just one-time wonder, it became the trademark of the decade.


USSR I Division

The Soviet championship left mixed feelings at the end – it looked like a major change occurred, which may have been positive, but there was also uncertainty, because of sense of decline of powerful clubs. The first problem was related directly to the concerns about football in the lower levels: the championship had two hopeless outsiders, which occupied the last positions from start and never appeared able to move up. Both outsiders were recent second division members.

Newcomer Nistru (Kishinev) finished last with 10 points. Torpedo (Kutaisi) was 17th with 18 points. Their whole role this season was to give easy points away. The problems of both teams were obvious from start and the coach of Torpedo, Anatoly Norakidze, spelled out the hopeless situation as early as the 4th round of the championship: “We are starting to build a team from scratch again.” Every year starting anew, that was Torpedo’s fate for a long time. And no wonder – even if the purpose of second division, where Torpedo – and Nistru too – usually played was not merely to be a supplier of players, clubs like Torpedo had the same role on republican level. The leading club of Georgia was Dinamo (Tbilisi), so everybody else was to give their best players to the republican flagship. In return – old and no more useful players of Dinamo were eventually received. They did not last long, mostly because of age. And not everybody was willing to join the smaller club – there were other options, often much better. So, this year Torpedo again depended on former Dinamo players, some of them famous – Gabelia, Khizanishvili, and Kostava – but it was far from enough for a competitive team. Nistru was similar – representing republic not particularly great at football, Moldova, they had no local pool of players to chose from and depended on recruits from elsewhere, mostly Ukraine. The left-overs of Ukraine, for the leading republic had too many top level clubs and they were the first choice of the better players. It was clear before the season that Nistru needs stronger recruits, the club failed to find such, and at the end of the season was accused of neglecting selection. Thus, the whole role of the outsiders was to provide easy life to teams in deep trouble – but why worry, when relegation was out of the question? Well, there was a lot to worry about.

Dinamo (Tbilisi) finished 16th with 27 points. Only two years after dazzling Europe and winning the Cup Winners Cup, they were at the bottom of the table. The squad tells if all. Standing from left: D. Paikidze, G. Tchkareuli, T. Zhiba, T. Sulakvelidze, M. Meskhi, K. Mtchedlidze, A. Chivadze, K. Kereselidze, D. Mudzhiri, A. Andguladze, G. Ukleba.

First row: R. Shengelia, G. Dochia, N. Kakilashvili, G. Guruli, Z. Svanadze, G. Dzhokhadze, M. Arziani, V. Kopaleyshvili, D. Kudinov.

After its European triumph, Dinamo failed to reinforce essentially aging team – two years later there were few great players left: Chivadze, Sulakvelidze, Shengelia, and Gutzaev. Not a single strong midfielder and Gutzaev very close to the end of his playing days. For many, it was just temporary failure, one careless season, but in fact this year was the end of the great Georgian team – one of the traditionally strongest clubs in USSR was never to be strong again. It was the end.

If Dinamo (Tbilisi) crisis came out of the blue, there was nothing new about the failure of their Moscow namesake: Dinamo struggled already for years, dropping out of the leading teams. And there was no end to trouble – may be because of policy. Year after year Dinamo recruited good players from elsewhere – good players, but not first rate and failing to improve the team. It was solid on paper, perhaps too solid. Minayev, Makhovikov, Gontar, Nikulin, and Novikov had their national team days gone for years already. Gazzaev was the only current national team member – but played scarcely and soon was out of consideration altogether. Bubnov, the only player of the pictured squad to become national team regular, moved to Spartak (Moscow), finished the season with his new club and practically became famous as Spartak player, not Dinamo’s. Although the squad suggested otherwise, Dinamo finished at the bottom of the league: 15th with 28 points.

Ararat (Ereven) – 14th with 29 points. A sorry example, which Dinamo (Tbilisi) failed to see – Ararat did not reinforce its great winning team of the first half of the 1970s and when it aged, Ararat simply went into decline. And that was that.

Neftchi (Baku) – 13th with 30 points. The usual lowly place, if they had good year and were not relegated.

CSKA (Moscow) – 12th with 32 points. Just struggling to stay in the league… their decline started before Dinamo’s, as part of the great decline of Moscow football. Once upon a time it was mighty battle between CSKA and Dinamo for the title, they were the leading clubs – now it was a derby in the bottom of league. Front row from left: D. Galyamin, N.Bulgakov, E.Drozhzhin, A.Tarhanov, V.Plotnikov , ?, V.Kruglov.

Middle row: V.Grechnev, V.Chetverikov (assistant coach), E.Veschev (doctor), V.Novikov, Yu.Shishkin, B.Kuznetsov, Yu.Chesnokov, P.Nesterov, V.Kardivar (administrator)

Third row: S.Pasechnik, V.I.Kornadut (political officer), Yu.Adzhem, V.Kovach, V.Glushakov, V.Kobyscha, G.Shtromberger, M.Plahetko (team cheif)

Forth row: S.Shaposhnikov (assistant coach), A.Shesternev (coach), I.Kurakin, V.Kolyadko, A.Samohin.

Same case as their rivals, Dinamo – good on paper, but not so on the pitch.

Metalist (Kharkov) – 11th with 32 points. Nothing special, but not alarming performance. Rather, the opposite – the team was establishing in the top league, so it was not bad. Just adjusting.

Pakhtakor (Tashkent) – 10th with 35 points. Not bad for them, even looked like the team finally recovered from the devastating airplane crash, which killed the whole team few years back. It was illusionary recovery, though.

Looked like Shakhter (Donetzk) lost its edge and dropped to its old mid-table position – 9th with 35 points. Front row from left: S. Morozov, V. Grachev, A. Varnavsky, M. Sokolovsky, S. Akimenko, I. Petrov, S. Yashtenko, V. Pyanykh.

Standing: O. Globukov – doctor, I. Yurchenko, Yu. Fishelev – administrator, V. Elinskas, V. Rudakov, A. Sopko, I. Simonov, V. Parkhomenko, M. Kalinin – team chief, V. Nossov – coach, ?, ?.

However, still solid and still the second ranking Ukrainian club. And still capable of winning.

Chernomoretz (Odessa) – 8th with 37 points. Good season,giving lots of hope locally. Standing from left: A. Doroshenko, V. Fink, V. Sakhno, V. Kuzmin, V. Rodionov, V. Sidnev, S. Pavlenko, V. Zubkov, A. Skripnik, V. Prokopenko, V. Nechaev, V. Ploskina, A. Degtyarev, referees V. Lysenko, Shevchuk, Mardar.

First row: I. Hakonechny, V. Pasulko, S. Zharkov, I. Belanov, Yu. Romensky, A. Polishtuk, G. Sapozhnikov, I. Shary, I. Sokolovsky.

The picture is from a memorial game against the ‘greatest’ Chernomoretz squad, winning bronze medals in 1974. The veterans – in dark, current squad in white. Same predicament, though… to a point, depending heavily on Dinamo (Kiev) – good players going there (Igor Belanov), hopefully decent players coming from there (Yury Romensky).

Dinamo (Kiev) – in dire straits and 7th with 38 points. A very disappointing season, which was partly due to injuries of key players, particularly the one of Buryak. Standing from left: Demyanenko, Buryak, Blokhin, Chanov, Makhinya, Bal.

Front row: Lozinsky, Zavarov, Dumansky, Guyganov, Evseev.

Injuries or not, it was strange, for Dinamo had the deepest squad in the league and provided most players to the national team. Even Lozinsky was still a member of the national team. Perhaps the reason for the failure was that Lobanovsky was not coaching Dinamo – he was coaching the national team and Yury Morozov was head coach. Well, Morozov was leading coach, even heading the national team. But he was unable to keep Dinamo at top – of course, the usual excuses were made: the players were tired, for they had too many games on too many fronts – domestic, European club torunaments, national team duties. And, of course, it was lame excuse – this was the best Soviet squad by far. Even the reserves were better players than most first league squads. Practically the same squad will win the Cup Winners Cup in 1986. Perhaps the real reason was midfield instability – Veremeev was listed at the beginning of the season as a player, but he did not play at all, coming to retirement at 35. Buryak was already 30 years old and after his injury there was nobody to handle midfield and organize the play. It came to the point Dinamo worried whether Sorokalet would be fit or not to start a game… Dinamo reduced to dependency on the fitness of second-rater (at best) as Sorokalet.

Torpedo (Moscow) edged Dinamo (Kiev) and took 6th place with 38 points. Ailing from the general Moscow sickness – solid players, but players who already reached their peaks. Getting no better and having no way to get better. Mid-table was their limit, there they were. There was some comfort, though – Torpedo performed better than Dinamo and CSKA.

The big wonderful surprise – Zalgiris (Vilnius) finished 5th with 39 points. Once upon a time Zalgiris played a bit of first division football, but without any success, so they were seen as absolute beginners: not a single player ever appeared in the top league before this year. Not only that, but this squad played 3rd division football just a few years back. The nobodies was expected to be relegated right away, but instead they played wonderfully and finished high in the table. Talented bunch, but observers were careful with praise – looked like one-time wonder. These were third division players after all – may be enthusiasm carried them this year, aided by other teams not paying attention to them, but the next year everything will become clear. And will be, but the way the skeptics thought: Zalgiris will be one of the strongest Soviet teams to the end of USSR and ‘third league’ players will become leading players, eventually ending playing professionally abroad. Zalgiris became also the a positive example, countering dark criticism of lower divisions: they managed to make a strong team from local boys, moved from complete obscurity to leading position, the system worked, therefore. True, but omitting one thing: since Lituania never had strong football, nobody was looking for good players there. Talent survived by default – and when suddenly talent emerged, it was too late to grab it: the Perestroika started, awakening local nationalism and providing some ways for financing clubs and paying players, so there was little chance Lituanians to be tempted by other clubs. Zalgiris proved everybody wrong, but not this year.

Zenit (Leningrad) – 4th with 40 points. Like Zalgiris, understimated. Good year, but Zenit had such good years – occasionally – before, especially when some other teams underperformed. Their attacking line was acknowledged as perhaps the strongest in the country at the moment – Kazachenok, Gerasimov, Klementyev, Zheludkov – helped by young rapidly emerging midfielder – Larionov. At the moment, that was all – rather small group of impressive players for continual success. Zenit was still seen largely as routine mid-table team. Just having good year. But it was not entirely that and observers were careful, preferring silence: there was something stirring, smaller clubs moved up and bumped the big names. Metalist (Kharkov) playing well, Zalgiris 5th, Zenit 4th – and Dinamo (Kiev) behind, Dinamo (Tbilisi) – at the bottom, Moscow Dinamo and CSKA – practically outsiders. And two other small clubs – ahead of everybody.

The surprise champions of 1982 finished 3rd this year with 43 points. Third row from left: Leonid Vassilevsky – administrator, Sergey Borovsky, Viktor Shishkin, Georgy Kondratiev, Vassily Dmitrakov – doctor, Igor Belov, Yury Pudyshev, Viktor Sokol, Anatoly Ussenko – masseur.

Middle row: Valery Me;nikov, Oleg Alekseenko, Yury Trukhan, Arkady Batalov, Yury Kurbyko, Sergey Aleynikov, Viktor Yunushevsky, Liudas Rumbutis, Andrey Zygmantovich.

Sitting: Igor Gurinovich, Sergey Gotzmanov, Mikhail Vergeenko – assistant coach, Leonid Garay – team chief, Veniamin Arzamastzev – coach, Ivan Savostikov – assistant coach, Yury Kurnenin, Petr Vassilevsky.

Frankly, Dinamo was not expected to repeat its success, let alone to build a dynasty. It was expected to play fairly well, though – on inertia. And inertia it was, for Dinamo was in the same predicament as few earlier champions – Ararat and Zarya. Small club to begin with and having not all that strong squad, it needed fresh recruits to solidify its original victory and keep going strong. But the club either missed the moment of opportunity or was not in position to use it at all, so instead of reinforcement there were already first losses: the significant one was the coach Eduard Malafeev, who went to work with national teams. Less significant was the retirement of the long serving goalkeeper Vergeenko, who became assistant coach of the team. So, it was the same team, with some key players getting older and inevitable worse and new new bright talent to even replace them. Still, Dinamo was lucky to keep its best players – Borovsky, Aleynikov, Gotzmanov, Zygmantovich, and Gurinovich. Of them only Borovsky was regular national team player at the moment, which was another sign that Dinamo was not taken all that seriously. Riding inertia, they finished well, but were not a title contender this year at all.

Whatever were the problems of Soviet football, but this championship ended on very excited note: the champion was decided in the last round in direct clash between the pretenders. Dnepr (Dnepropetrovsk) was leading by 2 points and hosted the decisive game. Spartak (Moscow) had better goal-difference and was in excellent combative form. It was very rare occurrence – happened only once before, in 1959. A big dramatic final of the long championship. Spartak needed a win and if they got it, they were not to be champions, but a play-off had to be played, according to the rules. Dnepr had the home turf advantage and needed just a tie – in fact, back in 1959 the decisive game was tied. This time was different, just a bit – Dnepr went forward, got 2-0 lead and kept it to the end – it was 4-2 at the end and USSR got their brand new champion, thus rounding the number of champions to 10.

Spartak (Moscow) got silver, which did not pleased them at all. Standing from left: Yu. Vasilkov, N. Starostin, A. Bubnov, Yu. Gavrilov, K. Beskov – coach, R. Dassaev, S. Bazulev, V. Gladilin.

Crouching: F. Cherenkov, Yu. Reznik, E. Mileshkin, V. Sochnov, E. Kuznetzov, B. Pozdnyakov.

Once again Spartak failed to win the title and that was too much for many considering Spartak the best Soviet club at the time. But was it? The squad above tells for itself – a strange mixture of world class players and little known guys. Some promising youngsters, some experienced second-raters, a veteran, two players seemingly just making the numbers. And that because of injuries – Oleg Romantzev, Sergey Shvetzov, Sergey Rodionov, and Edgar Gess were out most of the time. The team was shaky and at half-season there were no hopes for medals at all – Spartak was 9th. In the second half, though, Spartak suddenly came back to life and won 14 straight games, thus, having a chance to win at the end, but still lost. Konstantin Beskov, for many, was the best coach in the country and Starostin had the reputation of the best club manager, yet Spartak displayed a fundamental flaw during their long reign: it was never deep enough team, especially if compared to Dinamo (Kiev). Behind the regulars there were rather suspect reserves, but the transfer policy never changed – it looked like Spartak only replaced leaving good players with the same number of classy newcomers, adding a few young promising youngsters, but hardly noticed before and, as a rule of thumb, one or two veterans from other clubs. The newcomers rarely lasted more than a season, mostly because they disappointed, veterans did not last long either, because of inevitable retirement, so the next year Spartak was in exactly the same situation as the previous one. They lost Sergey Shavlo before this season, who was called to serve in the Army and thus played for second division Iskra (Smolensk). Another decent player moved to SKA (Rostov). The new recruits were typical – two of them were released quickly. Others – Mileshkin and Pozdnyakov on the photo above – made the team, but one could say that happened largely because regulars were injured. Valery Gladilin came back from Kairat (Alma-ata) to finish his career with his original club – the peak of Gladilin was almost 10 years ago. Yury Reznik was well known name, but hardly a star and also he reached his limit already. Only late transfer was really worthy – the central defender Aleksandar Bubnov, who arrived from Dinamo (Moscow). Meantime became clear that Spartak would not keep Reznik for long. Meantime 4 regulars were lost to injuries – Shvetzov practically missed the whole season, Romantzev and Rodionov – half of the season, Gess – almost half of the season. And there was nobody to replace them. Bubnov joined Spartak after the first half of the season was finished. Spartak was extremely vulnerable for it practically depended on 11 regulars and any injury badly rattled the short squad. One result of this permanent problem had particularly unhappy consequences – arguably, the best midfielder in the country at that time – Fedor Cherenkov – was overused, which cut short his career. The other result was empty hands – since Spartak came back from second division, they were the most stable performers in the country – 5th in 1978, champions in 1979, 2nd in 1980, 2nd in 1981, 3rd in 1982, and now – 2nd one more time. Stable, but without a title… stable, but quite distant from the leaders, not true title contenders – this season was the first time after 1979 Spartak had a real chance to win the championship and they blew it.

Dnepr (Dnepropetrovsk) did not miss its chance and won its first title. Standing from left: A. Tevs – assistant coach, E. Zhuchkov – assistant coach, A. Dilay, P. Kutuzov, Yu. Mirgorodsky, V. Bagmut, V. Konsevich, L. Koltun – assistant coach, S. Krakovsky, G. Zhizdik – team chief, V. Lyuty, O. Protassov, R. Konafotzky – administartor, G. Litovchenko, A. Azarenko – assistant coach, V. Emetz – coach.

First row: A. Pogorelov, O. Taran, N. Chernysh – doctor, O. Serebryansky, V. Ustimchik, A. Lysenko, N. Fedorenko, N. Pavlov, V. Kuznetzov, S. Puchkov.

Surprise winners, but in the same time not a big surprise – rather, representing the change taking place: smaller, previously insignificant clubs, moving up and pushing traditional powers back. Dinamo (Minsk) won the 1982 championship, now – Dnepr. There were also Metalist (Kharkov), Zenit (Leningrad), and newcomer Zalgiris (Vilnius) – an increasing group of underdogs challenged traditional leaders and they had one thing on common: having no real stars, they depended on collectives of enthusiastic second-raters, who compensated the obvious lack of skills with physical play, constant pressure, staying alert – tightly knit outfits, who were able to hold their own against big names and took advantage from any slip, occasional or not, of the big names. And having no real stars helped them to keep and even improve their squads – nobody was interested in such players, some of them already tried and discarded by the biggies. Dnepr was the best sample of the new breed of strong teams so far – better than Dinamo (Minsk): they had no star at all, and that included their home-grown coach Vladimir Emetz, pracitcally ‘discovered’ this very year thanks to the title. His boys were considered local – home-grown too – which was only partially true. The squad was made of similar players, who, lacking great skills, compensated with disciplined collective approach, based on physical pressure and not shying away from vicious tackles. Since they were players of the same mold, there was no big trouble if someone was injured or suspended – the back-up was pretty much of the same kind: physically fit runner. As a team, Dnepr more or less roll over the opponent – sometime this was not enough, but more often it was. It was all or nothing too – Dnepr did not look for ties, but for wins. And they most of all this year – 22 matches. They also lost 7 games and tied 5, they scored most goals in the championship – 63, their defense was leaky, allowing 36 goals in 34 games (7 teams had better defensive records, led by Spartak, which allowed only 25 goals in its net). All or nothing worked – Dnepr finished 4 points ahead of Spartak. Yet, it was clearly a victory of the collective approach – observers had difficulties speaking of the new champions as individuals. Some players were familiar… but either as second raters or failures. Seasoned veterans like Ustimchik, Pogorelov, and Zuev not only had their best years long time ago, but also with other clubs – and their best was not particularly great: Zuev at his prime was just eternal reserve of Dinamo (Kiev). At least he played over there – others were discarded quickly from the big club: Serebryansky, for instance. The best example was Oleg Taran, noticed when he was 16-years old and included in the junior national team. But his future was dark – Dinamo (Kiev) was not happy with his skills and had no intention to keep him. And he went to Chernomoretz (Odessa), impressed nobody, moved to CSKA (Moscow), failed again, and finally arrived in Dnepr as a new recruit for 1983 season – now he was 23-years old and pretty much written off with only 42 league games and 3 goals so far. But he fitted in, played well and finished the season as the best scorer of the champions with 13 goals – which was not much. Just enough for journalists to find something ‘extraordinary’ to praise – and not enough at all for any club to show interest in him. And the rest of the team was similar – even talented guys like Lyuty were seen talented enough to get, particularly by Dinamo (Kiev), which routinely took players from ‘subservient’ Ukrainian clubs. Dinamo was in trouble, Dnepr was champion,and still Dinamo did not see anyone worth to get from the fresh champions. But unlike other clubs, Dnepr was thinking of the future and did not stuck in keeping the existing squad until they retired – two bright youngsters were already in the team and given playing time: Genady Litovchenko (20 years old) and Oleg Protassov (19-years old). They were not famous yet, but will be in the next year or two (and, yes, Dinamo Kiev will snatch Protassov eventually). Dnepr continued the policy of searching and introducing new players, which was the right approach and unlike Dinamo (Minsk) and Zenit (Leningrad) Dnepr established itself as leading Soviet club in the 1980s. Never exciting team, but given the predicament of a small club, the best approach to stay competitive.

One more look at the new Soviet champions – and good to keep them inn mind, for this was not the only year focused on Dnepr – they were not one-time wonder.

USSR II Division

1983 was a bit unusual year in USSR – criticism was nothing new, but this time there was new and daring element to it. And criticism was right – something about fundamental problems had to be said at last, even if not acted upon yet. What fueled critics was not new at all and it was the whole concept of the football pyramid, so let begin with the very top: the team, which dazzled the international community at the 1982 Wold cup failed to qualify for the European championship finals by the end of 1983. The teams, providing most of the national team players failed to win the championship, Dinamo (Kiev) having particularly poor season. The top division had two hopeless outsiders and nothing particularly strong was seen in the Second Division. Exactly the second division became the focus of criticism, spelled out by experienced second-division coach before the season started. His argument was essentially this: Second Division was created with one fundamental aim – to discover, prepare and provide talent for the top clubs. So was the whole purpose of the vast Third Division. This was conceptually wrong and results were painfully obvious: year after year weak teams moved up the ladder, hardly lasting more than a season in the upper level. And what else could be in a system, forcing most clubs in the country to serve only as farm-teams, as possible suppliers – it would take a squad stronger than almost any in the top league to have enough quality players to give away and in the same time to get promoted and be at the same level as the best. It was absurd. Therefore, the plain results: demotivated clubs and coaches, looking for mediocre life in the Second Division – building a strong team was pointless, if not entirely impossible: if such team emerged, it was to be robbed of its players, for the rules spelled out exactly that. Getting promoted was even dangerous for administration: higher level meant very weak season among much stronger teams, which immediately brings heavy criticism and various penalties to the ‘guilty’. Mere statistics also showed how faulty was the concept: on average, Second Division gave less than 10 good players a year to the First Division. May be Third Division provided the same number. Fundamental change was needed – the coach called it ‘professional approach’. It was not a direct call for making Soviet football officially professional – it was a call making the clubs independent and free to organize their own squads as they see fit. If they were free from the yoke of ‘discovering, preparing, and providing’, they could make their own long-term plans, set goals, and pursue them – and the national football as a whole will benefit from that. The current system cultivated exactly the opposite attitude: better ‘discover, prepare, and provide’ nothing – there will be some critical note in the press that such-and-such club once again failed to do its job, which will be countered with official resolution, that ‘measures are taken’, and the case will be closed. After all, nobody will seriously attack a club, finishing in mid-table. And to do that, one only needed to be clever – to have sturdy squad of players who nobody sees as bright new talent. Practice supported precisely that approach – just look, at the end of the season, at the top goal-scorers of Second Division: Vitaly Razdaev (Kuzbass) was 3rd with 22 goals. Before him was Chugunov (Pamir) with 23. Both were already 1st and 2nd all-time scorers of Second Division. Both were already well over 30-years old – Razdaev was 37! Big scorers they were for years – but no First Division club would be tempted to snatch such veterans, expected to play their last season already. It was perfect impasse – can’t replace be decree a top scorer with a young lad, who can’t hit Kremlin, let alone a football gate; no big team would be crazy enough to get a player at his last legs. Can’t make them younger, can’t transplant their abilities into youngsters. 4-5 players of similar quality was quite enough to keep a team in mid-table for years and let the idiots get promoted. The argument was clear – and at the end of the season, confirmed entirely. But this argument went against ideology and naturally was not acted upon. Reality and ideals once again clashed and ideals lost: the coach was right – can’t have it all at once. Can’t be essentially a farm club and strong enough to equal the best. So, at the end of the season it was the same old conclusion: promoted from Third Division clubs not good enough to stay in Second Division; a big number of disinterested, but stable Second Division clubs; few candidates for promotion and these not exactly strong; hopeless outsiders in the top league, and those recently promoted from Second Division, providing easy life for clubs either in crisis or not able to develop – but having nothing to worry, since there was no threat of relegation; instability, even decline among the strongest clubs, providing for strong places of teams, which had only one thing in their favour: tight, well organized squads. Collective play compensating for lack of top quality players. And, finally – once again finals not reached by the national team. And how international finals could be reached, when the top players were unable to win domestic championship? So, teams and coaches were criticized, as they were every previous year, but the future was to be more of the same for sure, since winners of the lower divisions were of the same ilk as those previously promoted and failing right away. It was weird, because USSR had already very talented generation and new talent continued to emerge – the critical coach was right: it was faulty system, preventing clubs from true development and building competitive spirit. But all stayed as it was.

The 9 winners of Third Division groups went to promotional play-offs and the winners were typical, yet, troublesome. Half of them were former Second Division members, the most famous Krylya Sovetov (Kyubyshev), First Division member for many years. Not only Kryalya Sovetov failed to win promotion – only Spartak (Ordzhonikidze) managed to get back. The other two were newcomers – Dinamo (Batumi) and Irtysh (Omsk). There was no enthusiasm about the winners… Spartak, when in Second Division, usually occupied the lower half of table. Dinamo, coming from Georgia, may have been welcomed with some enthusiasm in earlier years, but not now: now it meant that 4 Georgian clubs will play in First and Second Division, dangerously stretching out the limited pool of good players in the tiny republic. Dinamo (Tbilisi) already experienced shortage of talent and lost its competitive edge. As for Irtysh, it was only geographic trouble – it was only the third club coming from the far East to play in the Second Division. Football was not great over there, largely because the climate was harsh, so there was no hope that Irtysh could be anything else, but novelty. Which major contribution to the league will be expense… travel expense. As a rule of thumb, newcomers from Third Division were not welcomed with enthusiasm, but the words about these three winners were particularly sparse and cold.

Well, the Second Division championship chilled the perception of observers, already cooled down by the First Division championship.

Dinamo (Kirov) finished last in the Second Division with 21 points. Short-lived encounter with second level football, a level clearly above the abilities of the squad.

So was the case of the 21st, which finished with 26 points. Unlike Dinamo, Tekstilshtik (Ivanovo) had long experience with Second Division, but they were unable to keep decent team, declined, dropped down to third level and came back with a squad well bellow the general standard.

The third relegated was unlucky, which does not mean they were any good. Dnepr (Mogilev), with 36 points, was only 4 points short from 12th placed Pamir. They lost the battle only on worse goal-difference, keeping hopes for survival to the last minute of the last round: they won their last match, but their rivals – SKA (Khabarovsk) and Shinnik (Yaroslavl) – also won their last games and Dnepr went down. Luck or no luck, Dnepr lasted exactly one season in Second Division.

Shinnik (Yaroslavl) barely escaped relegation, which was something new – Shinnik was one of the most stable mid-table clubs in Second Division. At the end, it was a painful lesson – one wrong move and peril loomed. 18th with 37 points. Sitting from left: Yu. Rodionov, A. Noskov, V. Kulikov, V. Evstratov – administartor, V. Smirnov, V. Bodrov, A. Rudakov, ?, S. Novosselov, A. Nikolaev.

Moddlerow: V. Frolov – coach, A. Ermolaev, V. Kossarev, V. Churkin, L. Zyuzin, Yu. Panteleev, N. Smirnov, A. Smirnov, N. Vikharev, V. Sotnikov, A. Piskunov, V. Chistyakov – coach.

Third row: V. Gavrilov – masseur, V. Nossov, ?, V. Tkachev, S. Shafransky, B. Gavrilov, A. Tzenin, E. Martyanov.

The typical second-division squad… well known for years players made the core. The basic group either got too old or was not looking this year – and the team immediately dropped down. Also typical… such teams usually went down with time, not up.

Shinnik was not alone in decline – Lokomotiv (Moscow) was the same. They ended 15th with 38 points. Let say, they dodged relegation not in the last championship round, but in the second-to-last. Some comfort… Crouching from left: L. Kozhanov – doctor, A., Mashkov – administrator, B. Petrov – assistant coach, V. Nikonov, V. Bukievsky, N. Badussov, V. Mukhanov, V. Safronenko, M. Chesnokov, T. Aymaletdinov – masseur.

Middle row: I. Avakumov – team chief, M. Lyuty, A. Parov, S. Surov, I. Kalachev, V. Radionov – coach, A. Kalaychev, A. Ilin, A. Kharkov, B. Zhuravlev – assistant coach.

Top row: O. Kozhokhin, A. Strakhov, R. Bilyaletdinov, P. Bezglyadnov, I. Makarov, A. Boky, V. Shevchuk, S. Baburin, A. Pavlov.

Various discarded from other Moscow clubs players here with one thing in common: all beyond their prime. Not a bad squad on paper, but paper does not win games. The only positive thing about this squad is that they finished with positive goal-difference. Which helped them none – head-to-head record determined positions when points were the same.

Not Lokomotiv, but modest Daugava (Riga) took the 14th place. Nice finish, but let not hide the simple fact: Daugava finished with 2 points more than relegated Dnepr (Mogilev). Of course, the season ended for them a little earlier – before the last round they were already out of danger. Which did not bring them to much effort in the their last home match against Tavria, also already in vacation mood.

Zarya (Voroshilovgrad) – 13th with 39 points. Safe to say that by now few remembered that Zarya was champion of the USSR… 1972 was getting more and more distant from present, which was insignificant at best.

And so was the existence of most second division clubs, whether former first division members, or not. But Kolos (Nikopol) was considered positive example – may be because they emerged recently from third division, may be because they did not even represent a city, but a region. It looked brave and noble to have a whole region gathering resources to support a football club. It also worked – Kolos was 6th this year. Nothing close to battling for promotional spot, but 4th placed Rotor (Volgograd) had 51 points and Kolos – 48.

And as it had been almost ever since the establishment of Second Division, no more than 3 teams fought for promotion. No more than three, may be only two, for Fakel (Voronezh) ended 3rd with 54 points – 5 points behind the 2nd placed. They either lost steam sometime during the season or never had any real strength. If they did not really tried for promotion, it was understandable – they already got the bitter experience of small club suddenly appearing in the top league. Short experience and better not repeated.

SKA (Rostov) finished 2nd, not much bothered by other rivals. Thus, they were promoted for a 4th time… meaning, they were also relegated back to second level. Really checkered history, with few successes spread through the years. The most recent one was winning the Soviet Cup in 1981. They were also relegated the same year, spent 1982 in mid-table obscurity, and now were going back to familiar first division grounds, but… Apparently they pleased nobody and impressed nobody, judging by the article on them in ‘Football-Hockey’. The weekly always presented the newly promoted with big article and photo – SKA not only appeared late, but with small presentation and no team picture. One look at the squad perhaps explains why… apart from few seasoned, but hardly impressive even in their best years veterans (save for national team forward Sergey Andreev), it was a team of suspect nobodies.

So, the champions of the Second Division – Kayrat (Alma-ata). A typical ‘in-between’ club, constantly moving from first division to second and back to the first. Too strong for second level, too weak for top flight… Up again and early enough to allow to lose their last match in the championship. The match saved the skin of SKA (Khabarovsk) and Kayrat was still first. First row from left: A. Shokh, A. Kuklev, V. Massoudov, S. Ledovskikh, F. Salimov, B. Dzhumanov, V. Nikitenko.

Standing: A. Fech – administrator, K. Ordabaev – team chief, Yu. Shadiev, E. Kuznetzov – assistant coach, L. Ostroushko – coach, S. Bayshakov – assistant coach, A. Ubykin, B. Evdokimov, K. Berdiyev, I. Kuchin – doctor.

Champions and promoted, but… nothing special. Some familiar names – for they played many years for Kayrat, thus quite experienced with first division football, some promising youngsters, some players with ‘difficult careers’, meaning they were getting old, but spent most of their earlier years in various lowly clubs. Clearly, this was a squad to have many problems in first division – unless they did not recruit almost a whole team of new and better players. But also a good example of the fundamental problem of first division teams – as far as they were mere ‘developers and suppliers’, whatever talent emerged should go to bigger clubs. Since so far Kayrat was in second division, that was all its role. Evstafy Pekhlevanidi (not on the picture) was arguably their best asset – technically, a player any first division club would get and thank you very much, well done. Getting recruits was another matter… a second-rate or over the hill Moscow player, who could still help Kayrat, would not go to far-away Alma-ata. It was pretty much the same of moving to Lokomotiv (Moscow) – still more likely to play in the second division, only no need to leave hometown. That was the bitter reality.

Anyhow, that were the two promoted teams this year – Kayrat (Alma-ata) and SKA (Rostov). Good for them, but nothing new.

Portugal the Cup

The Cup final was more of the same – Benfica vs FC Porto. And Benfica won again – 1-0.

Small difference, but not surprising – compared to Benfica, FC Porto seemingly had the second-best players in the country. Either supportive or reserve players in the national team, where Benfica players had the key positions.

Benfica collected well deserved double and sky was the limit.

Portugal I Division






The Portuguese First Division offered the familiar – big battle between two well known favourites, strong season for another traditional power, but not strong enough to compete for the title, rather equal bulk of clubs bellow, and two outsiders. Predictable outsiders.

Newly promoted GC Alcobaca was clearly not up to the task – they finished last with 15 points.

Above them with 18 points was Amora FC. Along with Alcobaca, they were prime candidates for relegation before the season started – and down they went, obviously weaker than the rest of the league.

Head-to-head results decided the third unfortunate:

CS Maritimo got the short stick – they had better goal-difference than their opponents, but the rule considered head-to-head results.

SC Espinho survived – with 25 points, like Maritimo, but worse goal-difference, they managed to escape. For now.

Varzim SC – 12th with 26 points. Like Espinho, just temporary lucky.

GD Estoril-Praia -11th, but only thanks to better goal-difference than Varzim, for they also had 26 points. Survival was their whole preoccupation, and likely to be the same the next year.

All things relative – another one of the perennially lowly, Salgueiros ended 10th with 27 points. Still lowly, still one of the prime candidates for relegation – but from their perspective, not a bad season at all: 10th place.

Similar case, Portimonense SC – 9th place with 29 points.

Rio Ave FC – 8th and above Portimonense only thanks to better head-to-head record.

Vitoria Setubal – 7th, but also with 29 points.

Sporting Braga, also with 29 points, ended 6th.

With 30 points, Boavista finished 5th, and topping the bulk of the league. Boavista, Setubal, and Braga were usually solid mid-table clubs and to see them in the same situation as the ‘rabble’ was quite disturbing: it looked like that more clubs were getting worse, instead of better. Among the 12 teams bellow 4th place only one finished with positive goal-difference – Portimonense (35-31). 12 out of 16 teams were largely concerned with avoiding relegation. The pitiful case of Os Belenenses was looming large… who else would be the next club in dire straits?

After all, Vitoria Guimaraes was 4th, but with 32 points it was closer to the relegation zone – just 7 points more than CS Maritimo, than to the bronze medalists, which were 10 points ahead.

There was little hope for positive change at the moment – of course, money was an old problem for most clubs, but more frustrating was the lack of local talent. To assemble competitive team unusual steps had to be taken:

Sporting Lisbon finished 3rd with 42 points. Clearly, much stronger than the rest of the league. Yet, to do that they needed to hastily make their Hungarian goalkeeper Meszaros Portuguese citizen – to open space for their two other foreigners, the Bulgarian midfielder Vanyo Kostov and the Yugoslav Bukovac. It was more than obvious: Portugal had no enough talent for three strong squads. And with such a move Sporting was entirely out of the championship race – yes, they finished 10 points ahead of the 4th plced, but they were also 5 points behind the silver medalists. And the lack of classy players was not going away – in near future the same exercise was repeated and Vanyo Kostov got Portuguese citizenship for the same reason Meszaros got it. Only Communist Bulgaria did not take lightly such move and branded Kostov a traitor – he was eventually able to come back to his motherland after the fall of Communism.

As for the title, it was the usual battle between two – Benfica and FC Porto. Their superiority was enormous and no wonder – all best players were assembled in them.

Still, FC Porto was not deep enough squad and although excellent in attack, outscoring Benfica by 6 goals, they finished 4 points short of a title.

So familiar at the end – Benfica champions once again. It was not routine season, though – Benfica showed great signs of revival, of coming back to their faded by now European leading place. They had strong international season for the first time in something like a decade and as for the home front – they lost only once this season and received 13 goals in 30 games. 22 wins and 7 ties, 67-13 goal-difference, 51 points. Of course, looking at the squad made it clear why they were so strong – practically the whole Portuguese national team was there. Including eccentric Alves, always playing with black gloves. Including incredible midfielder Chalana, just noticed by the world. And two important additions – the Swedish coach Sven-Goran Eriksson and Yugoslav winger Zoran Filipovic. If there was hope for Portuguese football, it was this squad.

Portugal II Division

Portugal, second level. Promotion was most important. Plus the fate of Os Belenenses, relegated for the first time in history.

Os Belenenses, in its darkest time, failed to reach promotion. That deep crisis and no end to suffering.

Others were not successful too.

Leixoes in Zona Norte,

Uniao Madeira and

Lusitano Evora in Zona Sur.

So, the successful ones – in general, former first division members climbed up, Exceptions were rare.

Farenze won the championship of Zona Sup and moved up.

Penafiel was promoted from Zona Norte. Nothing out of ordinary so far – just clubs constantly meandering between first and second division.

The winner of Zona Centro was different:

RD Agueda. They had very strong previous season and finished 3rd, which left them outside promotion. But it was safe to expect them playing well this season too. They did and won the championship. This was their finest season ever and Agueda was going to debut in the top league the following season. Huge achievement for a small club.

Scotland the Cups

Scottish Cups brought the final touch of disappointment for Rangers and its numerous fans. Championship was clearly out of the question almost from the beginning of the season, but there were hopes to compensate with a cup. Glasgow Rangers reached both cup finals, so at least one trophy… better two.

Large amounts were spent on reinforcing the squad before the season, including for signing the Swedish national team player Robert Prytz, and… nothing at the end. Rangers lost both finals – to Aberdeen in overtime 0-1 and 1-2 to Celtic. Miserable season from start to finish.

Not so for their opponents: to a point, it was absolutely fare – the three strongest Scottish teams ended with a trophy each. They were equally strong during the year, that was why the final results were fare.

The Dons extracted 1-0 win in overtime over Glasgow Rangers and got the F.A. Cup. It was second F.A. Cup in a row, won over the same opponent, but may be even sweeter this time, for they also eliminated Celtic in the semi-finals. Aberdeen ruled and the world getting familiar with one Alex Ferguson.

Current form hardly ever affects the clash between arch-enemies Celtic and Rangers. Either clubs always wants to win and victory stays on its own no matter what else happened. Tough, rough, often dirty – the classic derby. Celtic prevailed 2-1, thanks to goals by Charlie Nickolas and Murdo MacLeod, and won the Scottish League Cup. It was sweet – not only the season was saved with a trophy, but the League Cup evaded Celtic since 1975 – nice to win it again after all that years. But all was nothing compared to important victory against Rangers.

Scotland I Division

There was good reason to be doubtful of the Division 1 winners – once promoted, they did not fare well in the top league. Alarming tradition settled down: newcomers were too weak. Far too weak…

Kilmarnock, just promoted from Division 1, was the big outsider – last with 17 points.

Greenock Morton was admired for its heroic efforts to beat the odds, but grim reality was stronger: the big problem of Scottish football was money. The lack of money. The club openly admitted that only the fee West Ham United paid for acquiring talented young defender Neil Orr saved them bankruptcy. And the only way to avoid bust was selling players… which resulted in very weak squad. Capable of earning only 20 points… 9th place and relegation.

Perhaps Motherwell were quite happy to witness the troubles of Greenock Morton – that practically guaranteed them survival this year, but the Division 1 champions of 1981-82 had nothing fresh and promising to offer: 8th with 27 points. All they could do – not just this season but surely in the next too – was trying to escape relegation.

Which was also the concern of Hibernian, reduced to shambles in the recent years, even playing second level football in 1980-81. Now they finished 7th with 29 points and the future was looking bright either.

Dundee ended 6th with 29 points – only goal-difference placed them above Hibernian, but there was difference. Like Hibernian – even earlier than them – Dundee went into big crisis. Eventually, the club reacted with reorganization and new programs, but there were no positive results yet. There was optimism for the future, though – based on the implemented changes.

St. Mirren – 5th with 34 points. Not a squad worth mentioning, but strong enough for solid mid-table season. Consistent team – 5th the previous year, 4th in 1980-81, 3rd in 1979-80. It was clear the squad would not go any higher and to think of a title was absurd, but for a small club to be out of danger and solid in the middle was quite an achievement.

Glasgow Rangers – miserable and weak. 4th with 38 points. After 1978 Rangers was decline and that was that.

So, 6 teams were nothing to brag about – but the battle for the title was exciting and it was rare tough battle too: three teams from start to finish, divided at the end by one point and goal-difference.

Aberdeen was unfortunate, taking 3rd place with 55 points and worse goal-difference than Celtic. They had the best defensive record in the league, but scoring was much weaker than their opponents’. But there was neither disappointment, nor dark mood – just the opposite. They lost the title, but there was nothing to be ashamed of, for they won other and bigger trophies in their best year ever.

Celtic was perhaps angry at themselves: smaller club would have been quite happy with a season, which put them so close to the title. After all, if they had one point and 2 goals more, they would have been champions – but they ended only 2nd , above Aberdeen on goal-difference. Well, for a club like Celtic anything but victory is a disaster. Perhaps coming so close and losing the title made the disaster bigger and graver.

Just the opposite feeling in the Dundee United camp – edging traditionally stronger opponents in such close and tough race was more than great. Wonderful last minute victory and titles come rarely in the hands of Dundee United. More cherished because of that. More cherished, because Aberdeen conquered Europe this year. More cherished that Celtic was left behind. 24 wins, 8 ties, 4 losses, 90-35 goal-difference, and 56 points. Celtic and Aberdeen won more games, but they also lost more than Dundee. The champions scored – together with Celtic – most goals in the league. However, they had better defensive record than mighty Celtic – only a goal less received, but better. Only a point more than their rivals, but more. May be the strongest squad in their history too: Sturrock, Narey, Hagarty, Malpas, Gough, Dodds, Britton were enough for a title at the end. However, the group was not enough to ensure long dominance – and club and fans knew it in their hearts. Rare triumphs should be enjoyed fully and in earnest.