Yugoslavia II Division West

Yugoslavia. Dramatic championship, but the second level was nothing like first division. Second Division had 2 groups of 18 teams each, as usual. The winners were promoted and lowest 4 teams – relegated. That depended on geography: in case two teams of the same region went down in First Division, more teams were relegated in the group they were going to and less in the other.

Western Second Division. One leader without any rivals, but different at the bottom: as luck had it, 5 teams were relegated at the end of the season.

Slovan (Ljubljana) was last with 14 points, the absolute outsider. Standing from left: Kapidžić, Magič, Hegler, Pavlinič, Jeglič, Beširović, Šuštaršič, Matijaš, Kavčič, Maver, Oblak.

Sitting: Mandič, Pejović, Hasanagić, Kršić, Štok, Jerina, Poljanšek, Đekić, Kolarič.

NK Zagreb – 17th with 22 points. Very weak this year – hard to believe they were often top league members.

A bit confusing team – sometimes the name is given as TSC, sometimes as AIK. The club from Backa Topola changed name at one point, but not exactly in relation with this championship. This is at least a squad from the period, if not of the actual year. 16th with 32 points and going down.

Sloga (Doboj) – 15th with 32 points. Normally, they managed to reach safety on better goal-difference, but first league relegation voided their efforts and they also went down. Standing from left: Saračević, Šerifović, Salkić, Đulbić, Pranjić, Hadžić, trener Spahić;

First row: Turkić, Buljubašić, Dijamant, Krajina, Kalabić, Mujkanović.

Varteks (Varazdin) was also unlucky – 14th with 34 points, but relegated. If they scored 5 more goals… of got 1 more point…

Radnik (Bjelina) was good for another year – 13th with 34 points.

Borac (Banja Luka) – terrible period: relegated from top league and now barely escaping relegation from Second Division. 12th with 34 points.

Jedinstvo (Bihac) – 11th with 34 points.

Vrbas – 10th with 35 points.

Kikinda – 9th with 35 points.

Novi Sad – 8th with 35 points.

Jedinstvo (Brcko) – 7th with 35 points.

Leotar (Trebinje) – 6th with 35 points.

GOSK Jug (Dubrovnik) – 5th with 36 points.

Sibenik – 4th with 36 points. Top row from left: Jovicic, Vidacek, Matic, Maretic, Pralija, Capin, Mavric, Sorgic,Vrcic.

Middle row: trener Marenzi, Pauk, Marenzi, Atlija, Jurisic, Jurin, Ljubicic, Mikulincic, Damjanic, fiz. Mikelin;

Sitting: Bonacic, Nikezic, Gudelj, trener Kedzo, Pesic, Petkovic, Setka.

Proleter (Zrenjanin) – more was expected from them, but… 3rd with 37 points. Standing from left: Žarko Soldo, Jožef Ezveđ, Milorad Zorić, Srđan Čolak, Predrag Luburić, trener Radivoje Drašković. First row: Đuro Ivančević, Slobodan Dubajić, Zoran Pleše, Jovan Geca, Vladimir Ćurčić, Dragutin Đorđević.

Spartak (Subotica) – 2nd with 42 points. Spartak was clearly stronger than quite equal league, but only that. First place was beyond their reach. By far.

Iskra (Bigojno) was a leader without a rival, way above the rest of the league. 21 wins, 8 ties, only 5 losses, 65-33 goal-difference (+32. The next best was +16!) and 50 points. Fantastic season, the best in the history of the club, for they were promoted for the first time to the top league. Such season is never forgotten.

USSR the Cup

The Cup. Zenit had a chance for a double this year, although in actual time it was not even a slight possibility: the Cup final was played in July, which is just in the middle of the spring-fall Soviet championship. At the time Zenit was 5th and quite distant from the leaders. Back than it looked like familiar race for the title – Spartak (Moscow) vs Dinamo (Kiev) – and the most a team like Zenit could hope for was the second trophy. And they had every reason to hope for victory: their opponent was Dinamo (Moscow), at the time last in the championship and seemingly heading for relegation. Dinamo had a lot at stake – this was their only chance to remedy a terrible season, perhaps their worst ever. And they had an advantage – Cup finals traditionally are played in Moscow, that is at home turf and in front of home crowd for Dinamo. This more or less equalized the situation: Zenit had a very strong season and their team was well oiled, but if player by player were compared, Dinamo had the same number of strong players and capable of standing their ground in one game, no matter what. Thus, the final proceeded with Zenit attacking and Dinamo defending relatively well and looking for counter-attacks. Aftre 20 minutes the game was pretty much equal, if not very exciting. No goals were scored to the end – 0-0. In the extra time Dinamo prevailed:

Valery Gazzaev scored in the 97th minute and

Aleksandr Borodyuk sealed the victory the 116th minute.

The rest is as they say ‘history’- Alekasndr Novikov received the trophy. History is also novelty – back in 1977 Novikov was part of the last Dinamo team winning the Cup. The coach back then was Sevidov. Now the coach was again Sevidov and Novikov captained the team winning the 6th Cup for Dinamo. Not bad.

Zenit failed to win a second cup, but their loss was perhaps more interesting to look at at the end of the season, when they were the new champions: Dinamo tamed them in about 20 minutes. Forced out of their own style and pressed hard, Zenit shrunk. No wonder: they were good, but not great team. Perhaps their best player – Larionov – missed the final and the team immediately suffered. But for the moment Zenit was just unhappy with missing a rare chance, not yet envisioning championship title. At the end of season they were champions and the lost Cup final was only a minor thing – they gained much more. For the records: Zenit had a chance for a double, but was unable to get it.

Happy winners. Standing from left: I. Bulanov, A. Yardoshvili – doctor, V. Matyunin, A. Maksimenkov – assistant coach, S. Krestenenko, A. Uvarov, A. Prudnikov, A. Golovnya, A. Sevidov – coach, V. Fomichev, I. Mozer – team chief, Yu. Mentyukov.

Front row: R. Ataullin, V. Gazzaev, A. Borodyuk, E. Mileshkin, V. Karataev, A. Khapsalis, A. Novikov.

Well, 6th Cup – not bad at all. Not bad at all, considering the state of team at the moment. Thanks to this victory the worst season was not looking all that bad at the end of the year. Of course, the poor play was explained with the usual excuses: too many new young arrivals. It was shaky time of rebuilding, then. Very likely, but this was poor squad. Novikov was getting old. So was, to a point, Khapsalis, already discarded from Dinamo (Kiev) and recently transformed from striker to defender. Borodyuk and Gazzaev, the stars of this vintage, were never more than second-rate players – talented, yes, eyed by national team coaches, yes, but big stars? Not really. Gazzaev was constantly criticized for missing scoring opportunities and almost narcissistic individualism. The rest was of generally much lower quality: true, both goalkeepers eventually donned the national team jersey, but presently Uvarov was too young and a reserve. Prudnikov joined Dinamo this year after spending some time warming the bench in Spartak (Moscow) – good, bad, he had zero chance there, because of Dassaev. Here he was practically starting from scratch. Golovnya suffered from injuries, Karataev and Ataullin were young promising players and that was all. Poor squad… That made this victory truly great – Zenit may have been far from great team, but they were in perfect form and among the leaders. Dinamo was David facing Goliath and managed to win over. So, let them be happy with the trophy, for frankly, the future of this squad was going to be troublesome – unless major changes were quickly made.

USSR I Division

First Division. Let summarize the Soviet championship like that: the most stable team was stable indeed – never first. In the strange vacuum surprise winners were coming one after another. It could be that the exciting generation amounted to about 50 players – not wide enough to boost the league as a whole and when spread among 5-6 clubs none was truly great. 7 teams preoccupied with escaping relegation.

CSKA (Moscow) was last 19 points. Absolute outsider and no surprise: they had a few strong players, but were unable to recruit more of the same class. Instead of rebuilding and recovering lost ground – relegation.

Pakhtakor (Tashkent) – 17th with 25 points. They fought for survival and may be a bit unlucky, for they were just short of a point or two, but it was logical ending of long process. To begin with, Pakhtakor was never a strong leading club and the 1979 disaster, killing the whole squad, had its long tall – rebuilding was painful and not really successful. The club was exempted from relegation for awhile, but this period ended. Most of the post-disaster years depended largely from brought from outside players, generally on the oldish side, so even they could not help for long. The previous season was not bad, but the lack of reinforcements was predictably dangerous. And now Pakhtakor faced the music… going down to second division. It was inevitable, no matter lucky or unlucky.

Dinamo (Moscow) – 16th with 26 points. Barely saving their skins… well, the decline of Moscow football was noted years ago and seemingly there was no change. Was the mighty Dinamo going to follow the miserable steps of Spartak and CSKA and join the second division? They were terribly close already. Top row, from left: E. Mileshkin (?), A. Molodtzov, S. Nikulin, A. Minaev, V. Gazzaev, N. Latysh, A. Golovnya, A. Novikov, A.Molodtzov (?).

Middle row: A. Prudnikov, Yu. Pudyshev, Krupenin – administrator, A. Golodetz – assistant coach, A. Sevidov – coach, A. Maksimenkov – assistant coach, Gassov – masseur, Salnikov – masseur, N. Gontar.

Sitting: V. Matyunin, Yu. Mentyukov, N. Tolstykh, I. Bulanov, M. Chesnokov (?), A. Uvarov, A. Khapsalis, V. Demidov, A. Borodyuk, V. Kapustin (?).

If names win games, Dinamo should have been much higher in the table. Names… some were gatting too old, others already reached their peaks and limits, yet some others were still too young and not at their prime.

Neftchi (Baku) – 15th with 26 points. Managed to survive, that was pretty much their traditional unchanging aim. Good for another season, relieve.

SKA (Rostov) – 14th with 27 points. They won the cup not long ago, they played in the second division not long ago, they were… never a great promise. Fighting for survival, the usual…

Shakhter (Donetzk) – 13th with 29 points. Weak season, fighting to keep place in the league. However, they won the new cup played between champions and cup winners of the previous year – ‘The Cup of the Season’. Meaningless and misleading trophy, for the title suggests something great: the top team in the country. The real question was different: was Shakhter in crisis, how deep was the crisis, and was there quick way out of it.

Standing from left: Yu. Fishelev – administrator, S. Popovich, S. Pokidin, V. Rudakov, A. Radenko, A. Sopko, V. Gavrilov, S. Kravchenko, V. Goshkoderya, O. Glubokov- doctor, M. Kalinin – team chief, V. Nossov – coach.

Crouching: M. Sokolovsky, V. Elinskas, I. Vassilyuk, A. Shturlak, S. Morozov, S. Akimenko.

Metallist (Kharkov) – 12th with 29 point. They were the pleasant surprise in the previous year, but it was expected to get tougher this season – and it was: it was really a matter of establishing a place and adjusting to the top league. They were in danger, but escaped relegation. It was a season for building confidence and the future was not gloomy at all.

Ararat (Erevan) – 11th with 31 points. Predictable performance and hopefully they were going to stay like that in the future – there was no doubt the great early 1970s were not going to be repeated: Armenia was too small for producing big enough number of strong players.

Dinamo (Kiev) 10th with 34 points. They were terrible the previous season – 7th – and Lobanovsky urgently was brought back to coach them, only to sink even lower. Strange, considering that most of national team players came from Dinamo and for years Kiev had the biggest stars in its ranks. And ruthlessly recruited more, ravishing the other Ukrainian clubs. Well, the usual excuse was that the stars played too many games, combining club and national team duties. That was lame excuse at best – rather, the team was a bit uneven, having too many youngsters not quite good enough to pressure the regulars. And Lobanovsky, with his heavy-handed policies, was brewing conflicts – Leonid Buryak lock horns with the coach and left – or was dismissed – at the end of the season.

Zhalguiris (Kaunas) – 9th with 34 points. Now, that was a team going up and looked at as an optimistic sign. They climbed quite rapidly from nowhere, but were not a Cinderella story: it was clear they were going not just to stay in the league, but make an impact. Still developing and gaining experience, still not at the peak of their potential. A team for the future, doing well presently.

Kayrat (Alma-Ata) – 8th with 34 points. Wonderful season for them, but more or less accidental one. Back row from left: K. Sarsekov, V. Masoudov, I. Zaytzev, V. Agarkov – video operator, O. Dodonov, I. Kuzin – doctor, K. Ordabaev – team chief, S. Burakov, Yu. Naydovsky, A. Kuklev, Yu. Shadiev, S. Volgin, M. Kossanov, S. Bayshakov – assistant coach.

Middle row: E. Son, B. Evdokimov, S. Kirillov, V. Skulkin – assistant coach, L. Ostroushko – coach, E. Kuznetzov – assistant coach, V. Nikitenko, S. Stukashov, F. Salimov.

Crouching: I. Suvorin – masseur, B. Dzhumanov, A. Shokh, A. Ubykin, Yu. Konkov, S. Ledovskikh, K. Imanbaev, S. Savin.

Dinamo (Tbilisi) – 7th with 36 points. Declining and slowly going down.

Torpedo (Moscow) – on the left and against the outsiders CSKA, right – 6th with 40 points. Not bad, but nothing special.

Dinamo (Minsk) – 5th with 40 points. Still running strong on inertia, for it was clear already – this boys will not be champions again. The same team as two years ago, only two years older…

Sitting from left: I. Gurinovich, S. Gotzmanov, M. Vergeenko – assistant coach, L. Garay – team chief, V. Arzamastzev – coach, I. Savostikov – assistant coach, Yu. Kurnenin, P. Vassilevsky.

Middle row: V. Melnikov, O. Alekseenko, Yu. Trukhan, A. Batalov, Yu. Kurbyko, S. Aleynikov, V. Yanushevsky, L. Rumbutis, A. Zygmantovich.

Top row: L. Vassilevsky – administrator, S. Borovsky, V. Shishkin, G. Kondratyev, V. Dmitrakov – doctor, I. Belov, Yu. Pudyshev, V. Sokol, A. Usenko – masseur.

Frankly, it was really surprising they were able to keep their stars given the troubles Dinamo (Moscow) had. Dinamo (Kiev) not so much, but also was a potential predator – yet, Gurinovich, Gotzmanov, Borovsky, Zygmantovich, and Kondratyev were not stolen.

Chernomoretz (Odessa) – 4th with 41 points. A season almost as good as the one a decade ago, when they finished 3rd. However, the team was heavily criticized for uneven play and lack of ambition. Young players were blamed for already looking for other options. Of course, the critics missed the real big point – Chernomoretz was in the usual hunting grounds of Dinamo (Kiev) and just like always was seen as mere supply team for the mighty Dinamo – naturally, Igor Belanov was marked and even if he wanted to stay it would not have been possible. And not only he.

Crouching from left: N. Romanchuk, I. Sokolovsky, I. Belanov, I. Nakonechny, G. Psomiadi, A. Bagapov, A. Shterbakov, O. Sych, V. Pokonin, V. Ploskina.

Standing: V. Leshtuk – team chief, V. Prokopenko – coach, S. Tretyak, I. Shary, V. Fink, A. Skripnik, Yu. Smotrich, V. Sakhno, Yu. Romensky, S. Zharkov, V. Pasulko, V. Ishtak, S. Altman – assistant coach, V. Nechaev – assistant coach.

Dnepr (Dneproptrovsk) – 3rd with 42 points. Dnepr was fine and among the leaders most of the time. There was a slight chance for a consecutive title and they had the two best players in the league – the goal-scoring machine Protasov and the player of the year Litovchenko, but… it was the make up. Dnepr, having no chance of recruiting and keeping aces, developed a sturdy, physical, and constantly running team. No first-raters, though. Hardly even second-raters. Take away Litovchenko and Protasov and Dnepr was suddenly just an ordinary team. No wonder they dropped out of the championship race at the end of season – stamina they had, skills – not enough.

Spartak (Moscow) – 2nd with 45 points. Standing from left: E. Sidorov, G. Adzhoev, V. Sochnov, A. Bubnov, K. Beskov – coach, S. Rodionov, Yu. Gavrilov, G. Morozov, S. Shavlo.

Sitting: E. Kuznetzov, E. Milevsky, R. Dassaev, S. Cherchesov, S. Shvetzov, S. Shulgin, M. Rusyaev.

Spartak boasts that they were the most stable team in the league – 6 years in the top three already. But no titles. This year they were second a bit before the actual end of the season, one more disappointment, based on sluggish start and long drop of form for a stretch of 8 games – then they plummeted from 1st place to 6th. The final sprint was fine, but they were unable to catch the leaders. The problem was obvious: Spartak was not deep enough, they squad was somewhat always short and unable to recruit really strong reinforcements – from 6 newcomers 2 were former Spartak players coming back home after military service (Spartak was probably the most suffering club from that – for years there were key players taken away for army service), 1 was also belonging to Spartak, but temporarily loaned. From the 3 really new players only one managed to make the first team. It was familiar story by now… and at the same time better players left, the bigger loss was the inspirational captain Oleg Romantzev, who had to quit football prematurely plagued by injuries. When Cherenkov was out because of injury, the play of the team suffered immediately – Shavlo, after spending army time in second division, was no former self and contributed little. The most stable team may be, but second again.

And USSR had a new champion: Zenit (Leningrad). A good team, noticed for improvement in the recent years, but were they champion material? Let’s face it: the champions had 2 national team players and even at the peak of their form no other players caught the eye and were invited to play for USSR. It was not they took the championship by storm – they won largely because they were most consistent. Not at the top for good part of the championship, but near. When other teams had ups and downs, Zenit quietly added a point here, two points there, eventually arrived at the top of the league and stayed to the very end, keeping others at bay and even winning the title a bit before the last games of the season. It was steady work and fine tuning, credited to the their youngish coach Pavel Sadyrin. No matter what shortcomings Zenit had, it was historic victory – so far Zenit only one 1 Cup and that during the Second World War. Back than it was more of a propaganda thing – the whole staging of something like cup tournament, culminating with symbolic final, conveniently played between the Red Army and the heroic Leningrad. Nothing else Zenit ever won and not only that, but traditionally they were mid-table club at best – although rarely in danger of relegation. At last they triumphed and the squad became instant legend at home. Leningrad had to enjoy the moment to the fullest, because it was highly unlikely Zenit could win again. From a hindsight, it was true – Zenit became strong leading club only after the fall of USSR.


USSR II Division

Second Division. Two things stand out this season, both confirming the sense of uncertainty: for the first time a champion of USSR was relegated from Second Division, sinking down to the Third. In the same time the promoted teams were found wanting – and wanting quite a lot. Second Division was under criticism for years, but there was also a push for ‘improvement’, which translated into enlargement. 40 teams were proposed to play second level football – a doubling of size. Reality, however, spoke strongly against: there were few teams trying to get promoted. There was a bulk of clubs comfortably settled in mid-table and not wanting to aim higher. There were clubs too weak, fighting for survival at best. A glance at the final table clearly spoke the bitter truth: only two clubs went for promotional spots – which were 2. 10 clubs – out of 22 total – only tried to escape relegation. Not different from most previous seasons. Not many players worthy of going to first division clubs either. The only thing which appeared to work was the limit on ties – the plague of going for 1 point and forget about the risks of trying to win somewhat decreased. Scoring was not getting better, though. So, the league was not going to be increased after all.

Irtish (Omsk) finished last with 26 points. Nothing was expected from the debutantes, so they even produced a mild surprise earning that many points. But last and out.

Tavria (Simferopol) was 21st with 35 points. This team went heavy criticism at the end: just a few years back they went to play top league football, but rapidly declined after that and now were going to Third Division. But the club was in shambles and may be in such shape precisely because they overreached and went up.

Zarya (Voroshilovgrad) finished 20th with 37 points and was the third relegated club. They were also the first USSR champion to sink to Third Division. Unprecedented and unbelievable, but fact. More than 10 years back they were a bit suspect champions and not exactly expected to maintain leading position for long, but third division was unimaginable. The club declined sharply, however, and there was no stopping of the rapid sinking. Which reached its logical conclusion this season…

Front row, from left: A. Sorokalet, Yu. Bobkov, A. Kuksov, Yu. Kolesnikov, Yu. Yaroshenko, I. Gamula,V. Glukharev – assistant coach, O. Bazilevich – coach, V. Pechenevsky – team chief.

Second row: A. Bashlyk – assistant coach, V. Tarasenko, V. Kobzarev, V. Yurchenko, A. Nikitchenko, A. Malyshenko, A. Samara, V. Skvortzov- doctor, Yu. Rabochy, L. Tkachev – administrator.

Back row: A. Chistyakov, A. Tkachenko, V. Polyakov, S. Yarmolich, N. Fedyushtenko, O. Mozhaev, V. Kirilenko, V. Khromey, V. Zinchenko, A. Kolchenko, A. Cherednichenko.

Well… A. Tkachenko and A. Kuksov were the only players remaining from the champion squad. And Oleg Bazilevich was co-coaching the first great Dinamo (Kiev), the team which won the Cup Winners Cup. Now – going to Third Division. Amazing in entirely negative way.

Kolos (Nikopol) barely survived – 19th with 38 points.

Nistru (Kishinev) – 18th with 38 points. Another former first division now fighting for mere survival. And near folding – it was that bad.

Shinnik (Yaroslavl) – 17th with 38 points. Normally a sleepy, secure, mid-table team, but now in trouble. They survived, though.

Spartak (Ordzhonikidze) – 16th with 38 points. Hard to believe they played first division football – only once, but still.

Rotor (Vogograd) – 15th with 38 points.

SKA (Khabarovsk) – 14th with 39 points. Far-East clubs were normally weak and hardly able to improve, so there was no surprise SKA fought only for survival. But all depends on the standpoint… at the end of the season 14th place was quite good-looking at home. Here we are, proud 14th…

Zvezda (Dzhizak) – 13th with 39 points. Even with worse predicament than SKA, so they ended… very well and high in the table. In their own eyes.

Iskra (Smolensk) – 12th with 40 points. Just happy to play second division football, a rare occasion for them. Iskar occasionally got a player or two from the big Moscow clubs, but the squad is fairly anonymous – more interesting is who else is also on the picture, for it that could be a good comment on attitudes and perhaps the reason why most clubs failed to develop. The photo was made after cup match in Samarkand and really looks like a vacation trip: there are a journalist and his son, the director of the Smolensk stadium, the head of Smolensk regional sports committee, and… the vice-director of the poultry-processing plant in Smolensk. And tour-guide, naturally.

Dinamo (Batoumi) – 11th with 40 points. Not bad for them either. A closer look at the season tells that they were largely preoccupied with escaping relegation, but the final table shows nothing of it – it looks great.

Guria (Lanchkhuti) – 10th with 42 points. Strong Georgian football? To a point, yes – 3 teams in Second Division, playing not so bad: Kutaisi, Batoumi, and Lanchkhuti. Unfortunately, the Georgian republic is small and had no means to support so many clubs.

Kuzbass (Kemerovo) – 9th with 42 points. Business as usual – mid-table, nothing more, nothing less, no worries.

Pamir (Dushanbe) – 8th with 43 points. As ever… despite constant criticism that the club had bigger potential, but no ambition. Why bother to try going up? Look at the fate of Tavria, Nistru, Zarya, and get wise: stay comfortably in the middle of the table.

Daugava (Riga) – 7th with 43 points. Now, that was an optimistic story: the club managed to climb up from the vast unknown of Third Division and was doing very well.

Lokomotiv (Moscow) – 6th with 46 points. Should have been among the leaders fighting for promotion instead of playing rather disinterested football, but they had perfect iron-clad excuse: since they were the smallest Moscow club, they had almost no chance for recruiting and keeping strong players. So… they were rebuilding… and under such objective circumstances it was going to be difficult and long process. Sitting from left: R. Bilyaletdinov, Yu. Shumlin, S. Surov, V. Abramzon, A. Boky, A. Lebedev, V. Zemlin, A. Ilin, V. Safronenko, L. Fedorov.

Second row: V. Peregontzev – coach, V. Koloskov – masseur, R. Gallagberov, P. Bezglyadnov, I. Makarov, S. Baburin, I. Pestretzov, V. Shevchuk, N. Kalaychev, M. Lyuty, A. Kolesnikov, B. Zhuravlev – coach.

Metallurg (Zaporozhie) – 5th with 48 points. One of the eternal mid-table clubs. It looked like they were aiming higher this season for awhile, but eventually got ‘wiser’ and dropped out of the promotional race. Why bother? It was cozy enough where they were.

Kuban (Krasnodar) – 4th with 49 points. They got a taste of top league football and either did not like it, or were not quite ready yet for a second try. One can bet they preferred to be among the top second division teams than in the relegation zone of first division.

SKA Karpaty (Lvov) – not the best period of the club’s history. Karpaty merged with the other club in the city, the Army club SKA, and the combination did not work so well. 3rd with 49 points – but not in the promotional race and not deliberately that: just not good enough.

Torpedo (Kutaisi) – 2nd with 55 points. The problems with second division in nutshell: Torpedo did not have very strong team and was not exactly envisioned as potential climber for a good chunk of the season. Yet, they finished far ahead of 3rd placed SKA Karpaty – the potential rivals lost steam, or were not able to sustain even season, or decided to drop out of risky promotion, and at the end Torpedo looked mighty… when one sees the 6-point gap between them and the SKA Karpaty. They played top league football before and wanted to try again, having the same problems they had in the previous campaigns: short squad. They urgently needed strong reinforcements and it was more than doubtful they could get them: the only hope was to get some veterans from Dinamo (Tbilisi). All this happened before…

Fakel (Voronezh) – champions with 57 points. Their greatest season ever. Favourites from start to finish, winning the first place early. Practically, without rivals. Promoted for the first time in their history. A nice story with happy end. Well deserved happy end. However, it was observed that the squad is not exactly up to top league standards and needs additional players. It was wonderful to see Fakel – ‘the Torch’ – on top, but… observers were not exactly raving about them and were particularly pessimistic about the prospects of both Fakel and Torpedo next year.

Unusual champions, so let have one more look at them: Fakel (Voronezh), the Second Division champions. Great season.


USSR III Division

USSR. This were times of uncertainty – on one hand, there was very talented generation and at least the prospects of the national team looked fine. On the other hand, champions changed every year and although it was great to see new names and faces none of them looked like a long-lasting great team. It was more competitive championship, more goals were scored, the football was more open and adventurous, but… There was third hand too, may be the most important one. Dinamo (Kiev) was not performing well. Spartak (Moscow) was able of no more than finishing second. A bunch of clubs either suffered decline or at least were not developing. Second division was the same as ever, reduced to two-three usually former first division clubs interested in promotion, a large group trying only to escape relegation, and disinterested mid-table clubs going nowhere. Third division produced few quality players, there were coaches openly saying that they have no interest developing talented youngsters, for that was sure way for disaster of the club – the talent would be taken by the big clubs and they will be left with nothing. Some clubs even hided their talented players from the eyes of specialists and various republican and national teams. Not only that, but third division practically disappeared from the central media, it was hardly ever mentioned – and to begin with, the coverage was scarce and limited. It was time of uncertainty because despite the talented generation of players nothing great was happening and some coaches were openly questioning the system and calling for radical changes of it. Never said at the time, but what they meant was professional football and according structure. But it was not to be yet. Not to be truly to the end of the Soviet Union.

Third Division. In the past one can get at least the general picture of this championship, but not this years – practically nothing was said in the central media, even the promotional tournament was not covered. So here it is in few words: 191 clubs played in this division and they were divided into 9 Zones (10, actually, for Zone 6, the Ukrainian zone, had 2 groups of 13 teams each). The numbers differed widely for some reason – 4 zones had 17 teams, 2 zones – 16, but Zone 7 had 21 teams and Zone 4 – only 14. True, it was the Far East zone, where little football was played. The Ukrainian Zone 6 was the largest by far – 26 clubs in it, so it was divided into two groups, the champions of each going for final play-off. All third clubs had to have at least one 18-year old player among the starters and this player could be substituted only with player of the same age. That rule was made with the aim of developing young talent – how useful it was is anybody’s guess. Usually coaches – not just the Soviet ones, but in every country similar rule was tried – were skeptical at best, founding it useless as rule of thumb, and openly hated it, at the worst. At the end of the zonal championships the winners preceeded to promotion tournament for 3 open places in Second Division.

Some of the teams, playing in Third Division:

Krasnaya Presnya (Moscow)

Tzelinnik (Tzelinograd)

Niva (Vinnitza)


Chkalovetz (Novosibisrk)

Spartak (Zhitomir)

Lokomotiv (Chita)

What happened during the year perhaps is not particularly important – at the end the winners going up to Second Division were:

Kotaik (Abovyan) – a small Armenian club, which never played Second Division before.

Dinamo (Stavropol) – perhaps that had a bit Second Division experience, but not much, and

Krylya Sovetov (Kyubishev), which after sinking that low, was trying to recover ground – after all, they had been almost regulars of First Division. And they were the kind of club expected to be promoted – former second division member, may be fading, but with long past in higher levels of Soviet football – there were whole bunch of such clubs in Third Division, but only Krylya Sovetov climbed up.


France the Cup

The Cup. Here was a chance for Monaco to make if not a double at least to finish the season with a trophy – Metz, as brave as they were, were no match. On paper, that is. At the end of the final reality bit: regular time ended scoreless 0-0 and in the overtime Metz scored twice. Monaco did not and lost 2-0.

Twice unfortunate… keeping head to head, not giving up, not really beaten of weaker, yet, finishing second and consequently – empty handed. Something was lacking, something tiny, but enough to place Monaco second, not first. It was impossible to put a finger at some obvious weakness, unfortunately – to identify a problem, so to fix it. What was there to fix? Lucien Muller was good coach. A team full with national team players at their prime – Bravo, Bellone, Amoros, Ettori, Le Roux, Genghini will be European champions only a month after the end of the French championship. Add Bijotat, Petit, Puel and what more one can ask for? Nothing, but all that talent was good only for second place, no matter how close it came to winning.

Metz triumphed with Cup victory, which was great for a club poor on trophies. Since they did not have starry squad, nobody could blame them for prevailing only in extra-time, that is, winning largely on enthusiasm. It was delightful victory of the underdog and especially important victory for their coach: the former great Polish midfielder Kasperczak was only beginning his coaching career and this victory was very encouraging: the guy was obviously talented and there was strong promise for a great coaching career. All that is just footnotes: this was historic victory for Metz. They won their very trophy! Just imagine the rush of joy.

France I Division

First Division. 20 teams, as usual. Two automatically relegated, the 18th going to relegation/promotion play-off. If there is anything standing out this season, this is the amazing decline of St. Etienne.

Rennes – last with 23 points. Very weak, but hardly a surprise: Rennes had been relegated before, they had a bit of trouble staying in top flight for long.

Nimes – 19th with 25 points. Their relegation was even less surprising than Rannes’.

St. Etienne – 18th with 30 points. Much stronger than the teams bellow them, but this was hardly a comfort: St. Etienne hit the bottom. The rot was noticed a bit earlier, of course, and the usual measures were taken – the legend Herbin was fired and now Djorkaeff was at the helm, but the team only slipped further down. Whatever it was – lack of money or terrible recruiting – this squad had nothing in common with the one playing at European cup final less than 10 years ago. Even the imported help – the former Polish international Kupcewicz – was of far lesser quality than the foreigners not even of 10 years afo, but only of three years ago. Poor selection and ending in the relegation zone. It was not over yet – St. Etienne still had a chance, if beating the second division pretender, but they lost to Racing Paris and were relegated. Joining the sorry fate of other venerable clubs there – Lyon, Nice, Reims, Marseille (they just climbed up, but were not the team they were years ago).

Brest finished in safety – 17th with 31 points. A close escape, but there was irony in it – modest Brest survived at the expense of mighty St. Etienne.

Another modest club, Toulon, also managed to survive – 16th with 32 points. Standing from left: Duval (entraîneur), Beringuier, Vizcaino, Alfano, Dib, Benedet, Neubert, Perlin, Courbis, Emon, Marc Duval, Riberi, Marc Duval.

First row: Pesce, Verstraete, Boissier, Paganelli, Col, Dalger, Chaussin, N’Kouka, Onnis.

Some old feet never die, though – Delio Onnis, now playing for Toulon, was still the prominent striker – and once again finished the top scorer of the championship. His goals helped the club in its fight for survival a lot.

Nancy – 15th with 32 points. The usual performance more or less.

Rouen – 14th with 34 points. Nothing new here as well.

Lens – 13th with 35 points.

Metz – 12th with 35 points. But they had something better happening.

Bastia – 11th with 36 points. Tarantini was trying to establish himself in Europe again, alas, with the same result as his spell with Birmingham City. Somewhat unlucky guy.

Laval – 10th with 36 points.

Lille – 9th with 37 points.

Strasbourg – 8th with 39 points. The real problem of Strasbourg was age – for years a look at their squad make the impression that such team could do more. Impressive names, but almost always too old already. Even their champion team was too old for keeping longer spell.

Sochaux – 7th with 41 points. Still enjoying their strong spell, but given their resources, that was the best they could do – the club had no means to build really strong team.

Nantes was the last of the leading teams of the 1970s keeping strong: 6th with 45 points. Not a title contender, but remaining solid and at the top of the league. Standing from left: Adonkor, ?, Rio, Halilhodzic, Bossis.

Middle row: Ayache, Baronchelli, Touré, Muller.

Sitting: Poullain, Picot, Bertrand-Demanes, Buscher, Bibard, Amisse.

The squad was a bit short, but good. Nantes needed a few more good players, though – largely because some of the established players were aging.

Toulouse – 5th.

To a point, that was a tempting justification for making another Parisian club strong – Paris SG was not winning. 4th this year with 47 points. Running only for bronze medals. Having the most famous and expensive squad in the country and not even able to challenge the leaders.

Bright and coming Auxerre proved it was not one-time wonder, but clearly was going to stay among the very best. Third this year with 45 points, ahead of Paris SG on better goal-difference. Excellently run by Guy Roux. Cantona was getting his foot in the game, still a young promise.

Monaco – perhaps with stronger squad than the ones winning titles in the previous years, but a bit unlucky. They were favourites entangled in dramatic battle with Bordeaux to the last minute of the championship. And not losing… both rivals finished with 54 points. Bordeaux had stronger defense and may be this was why they finished 2nd on worse goal-difference: stronger defense almost always means weaker strikers.

One may call them lucky and may be they were, but they were also good. Bordeaux clinched the title on better goal-difference after 23 wins, 8 ties, 7 losses, and 72-33 scoring record. Lucky may be, but in the same time their victory was just – Monaco traditionally was jumpy team, unsteadily alternating great seasons with flops. Bordeuax enjoyed very solid spell, the squad was the best in France, the coach was excellent, and there was no mistakes during the transfer periods: good additions were included just in time. By now, they had the closest squad to the great St. Etienne of mid-1970s. Back than the greens had about 16 national team players – Bordeaux presently had Tresor, Battiston, Tigana, Giresse, Lacombe, Tusseau, Girard, Specht, Domenech, Thouvenel, near-national team players like Rohr, Muller, Zenier, and the West German Memering, who made his name with Hamburger SV. Perhaps they needed stronger goalkeeper, but even with what they had, they were the strongest French team and clearly going to lead in the next years.

France II Division Group B

Group B. 18 teams here, under normal circumstances 3 will be relegated, one going up directly, the second-placed – to promotion/relegation play-offs. One thing must be said in advance: the third mystery of this season. It was almost a repetition of 1970, when the idea of creating a big Parisian club was cooked. Back then conflict with regulations led to two clubs instead of one: Paris FC and Paris St. Germain. Paris FC somehow got the short stick and gradually faded away. So far Paris SG was unable to fulfill the original ambitions. France, along with West Germany, was unique for lacking leading club located in the capital – with time, the old clubs diminished: Stade Francais concentrated on rugby, Red Star lost its power, Racing faded away as well. Paris SG filled the gap to a point and there was the feel that another big club could fill the gap and tap on public craving success. So thought Jean-Luc Lagardere, a wealthy businessman, in 1982 – put money, buy stars, jump-start a big team, make a big club. But which club? And now ill-fated Paris FC came in the picture again: Lagardere thought of merging old Racing with Paris FC, who played in the Second Division. Just by-pass the painful climbing up from lowest divisions and get right to the top at once. But the financial situation of Paris FC was absent and suspicious chairmen of Racing Club de France refused to risk a merger. Lagardere bought Paris FC – and got a debt of more than 4 million francs from the deal. No matter, next step – he renamed Paris FC ‘Paris Racing 1’ , keeping the sky-blue and white colours of Paris FC (oh, at first Paris FC played in red and black, but never mind that – the good news here is sky-blue and white are also the traditional clolours of Racing, how convenient). Then negotiated with the chairmen of Racing Club de France – it was tempting offer: to play in the Second Division. Done! Paris Racing 1 was ‘attached’ to Racing Club de France. That was the professional team of short-lived Paris Racing 1 – the reserves and the youth teams, formerly belonging to Paris FC anyway, were named Paris FC 83 – and included in 4th Division. After all that maneuvering emerged something called Racing Paris, which played in Group B of Second Division in 1983-84. Clear? May be not, but that is all. Kind of all, for soon the name will be different. Presently, Racing Paris was just newcomer, freshly promoted from 3rd Division.

FC Roubaix finished last with 15 points.

Montceau-les-Mines – 17th with 17 points. Along with Roubaix, absolute outsider and relegated, of course.

Red Star (Paris) – 16th with 26 points. Big decline – once upon a time, solid first division club, but now the future looked like 3rd division. However, lucky turn at the end – normally, should have been relegated, but promotion/relegation circumstances between 1st and 2nd division suddenly benefited Red Star and they remained in the second level.

Stade Quimper – 15th with 26 points. Famous player here – the Polish great striker Lubanski. Too old for anything else by now, he was playing his last days in lowly Quimper.

SC Angers – 14th with 26 points.

US Dunkerque – 13th with 27 points.

SC Abbeville – 12th with 28 points.

CS Sedan-Ardennes – 11th with 30 points.

Berrichonne Chateauroux – 10th with 31 points.

Stade Francais (Paris) – another rapidly fading club. Back row : Lamoureux (président), Avisse (directeur sportif), Zaher (entraîneur), Joffre, Hersant, Lacroix, Mauffroy, N’Gouette, Dantheny (entraîneur gardiens), Dussaud (entraîneur).

Middle row: Camus, Govignon, Muscat, Mazzon, Prenveille, Lasséougue, Ferrière, Amelot (masseur).

Crouching: Motz, Harzam, Bouzaglou, Tomasewzki, Martin, Charton, M’Bama.

9th with 33 points.

En Avant Guingamp – 8th with 38 points.

FC Mulhouse – 7th with 38 points. Didier Six here – still national team member!

US Orleans – 6th with 39 points.

US Valenciennes – 5th with 41 points.

Stade Reims – 4th with 45 points. Hard to believe this club played European finals – so far in time and so unlike the present.

AC Le Havre – 3rd with 47 points. Not bad, but not in the race for promotion – just better than the rest of the league.

Racing Paris – 2nd with 52 points. Top row from left:Troch, Muzarelli, Mahmoud, Zagar, Lafargue, Gauthier, Chambo.

Third row: Bonnat (entraîneur adjoint), Carpentier (kinésithérapeute), Zvunka, Ekéké, Bas, Laachi, Renaut, Alain de Martigny (entraîneur), M. Serge Guyot (directeur délégué).

Second row: Oekland, Ben Mabrouck, Sither, Bianchi, Chebel.

Front row: Tihy, Remond, Peltier, Madjer.

They pushed hard, scored most goals, by far – 91; received the least – 26, but at the end it was not quite the envisioned result: second place did not give automatic promotion. And the team was not the mighty squad Lagardere wanted – this vintage was based aging Zvunka, Swedish player Oekland, and the Morocon striker Rabah Madjer – the key player of the team. He was to become European champion, but not with Racing. Early stage of the plan so far and nearly misfiring – but the team got itself together and won the promotion/relegation play-off. Relief. Note the add on the shirts – soon Matra will become part of the name of the club.

FC Tours won the league with 53 points. One point more than Racing did it, but it was also laughing in the face of the newly rich Parisians and their grand ambitions: modest Tours was above them and promoted. Racing was in danger of remaining in Second Division… It was wonderful victory of the underdog – 24 wins, 5 ties, 5 losses, 80-30 goal-difference. And compared to Racing, modest selection – true, there were some former first division players.

That was almost all. Play-offs followed and since statistics are lacking now, it was suffice to say that Racing Paris got what they wanted after prevailing against St. Etienne. Did they played with OGC Nice before that is not even important.

France II Division Group A

Second Division. 37 teams played here, divided in two groups – A and B. There was constant and mysterious shuffling of teams between the two groups for years. No clear logic could be divined from the movements, though: 13 teams from Group A were moved to group B after the end of the season – the same number was shuffled from B to A. Meaning that only team played consecutively in Group A in 1983-84 and 1984-85, and none in Group B. Practically, the whole group A was named group B for the next season and vice-versa. And that every year. The second mystery involved promotion – the champions of the two groups were directly promoted, no problem here, but there was also a third team – looks like there was a play-off between the second-placed teams in the groups. Yet, it was not direct promotion – there was play-off against the 18th placed in First Division. For some reason statistics omit results and explanation of procedure. And there was a third mystery yet, but it belonged to Group B and will be mentioned in time.

Group A. 19 teams. The group will be evened in the next season, so 4 teams were going to be relegated . This depended on relegation and promotion as well – the group of relegated teams could be bigger or smaller, depending on movements between first and second division.

FCVB Villefranche finished last with 25 points.

AS Angouleme – 18th with 27 points.

FC La Roche-sur-Yon – 17th with 28 points. Wait a minute… They were going down or not? Relegated, yes, but meantime Burg-sous-la-Roche won promotion from 3rd Division. And renamed itself AEPB La Roche-sur-Yon. Was it some amalgamation with the relegated club? Was there any relation at all? Was FC La Roche-sur-Yon actually relegated? Go figure…

AS Libourne – 16th with 29 points. By the rules, they were to be relegated. However, relegation depended on how many teams were promoted from this group to First Division and how many teams came here, relegated from top flight. Unfortunately for AS Libourne, everything went ‘ideally’ and they went down.

AS Beziers -15th with 30 points. They had to fret a little, but since the danger passed away – no larger number of former first division arrived and they were safe. For the moment anyway.

RDFC Besancon – 14th with 30 points. They had to fret during the season, for it was just a fight for survival, but at the end everything was fine, they ended at secure place. Young and unknown yet goalkeeper here: Lama. Almost sinking to Forth Division in the beginning of his career.

FC Gueugnon – 13th with 30 points. Survived.

CS Cuiseaux-Louhans – 12th with 31 points.

FC Sete – not many people remembered by now that Sete was a leading French club years ago. Firm second-division team was the reality for years: 11th with 32 points.

FC Martigues – 10th with 32 points.

CS Thonon – 9th with 33 points. Hard to believe that Anton Ondrus captained Czechoslovakia in 1976 and Parizon was French national team material… both were old veterans, good only to keep a modest second division club afloat.

Olympique Ales – 8th with 36 points. If Thonon had Ondrus, Ales countered with Paulo Cesar Carpeggiani – remember him? One of the few impressive Brazilians at the 1974 World Cup, a wonderful midfielder. Time is nobody’s friend though – almost forgotten, Carpeggiani played second division football now.


FC Grenoble – 7th with 37 points and more fading glory: the Hungarians Laszlo Balint and lesser known, but also used to play for Hungary, Csapo.

AS Cannes – 6th with 40 points. More veterans – Revelli, Rampillon, but also current talent – apparently, Cannes was tapping on Icelandic talent: Thordarsson. Well, this was the time to get Icelanders.

La Paillade Montpellier – 5th with 43 points. Not strong enough to run for promotion.

FC Limoges – 4th with 45 points. Good season – for them. A second division was the maximum of their abilities and aims, so it was splendid season. With them, the ‘regular’ second division teams ended – the rest of the league was another kind.

Olympique Lyon – 3rd with 47 points. Weird to see them in second division, but these were dark years for Lyon and even getting Robert Herbin to coach did not help. The squad was lean and poor quality, not much to be done with it. And perhaps this was the year proving that Herbin was one-team coach: yes, he was great in St. Etienne and masterminded its greatest squad and greatest years, but that was in the 1970s and somehow he lost his touch in the 1980s – now in second division and not winning. Rather, on the road to dismissal: Lyon was not contender in the race for promotion.

OGC Nice – 2nd with 53 points. Also a pale shadow of the leading club they were until 1973-74. There long lasting decay was not ending – the squad was rather weak. Curbelo and the Swedish international Larsson were not enough to lift them up. Apparently, they lost the preliminary play-off for possible promotion and remained in second division.

Olympique Marseille won the championship – 22 wins, 12 ties, only 2 losses, 92-32 and 56 points. Not very far ahead of Nice, but clearly the strongest team this season. Suffering in the resent years, yes, but may be on the way of restoring its glory and leading position in French football? May be only in the dreams of its supporters – the squad was not impressive at all. Bracci was too old by now and Olarevic was only a second-string Yugoslavian player. Naturally, Marseille was happy to leave purgatory, but real work was needed, if they wanted to play larger role than struggling to stay in First Division.


France III Division

France. When the championship started, there was no way to know that France will be the king of Europe in the summer of 1984. But French football was already well respected and considered among the best in the world. This was not so on club level, but still the French championship had solid reputation for years and was attractive to foreign players – very often the fate of French clubs depended on the foreign talent they employed. All that is just repeating the well known, so right to the game.

Third Division rarely got any attention outside France. It was divided geographically into 6 groups of 16 teams each. The winners got promoted to Second Division, but this was tricky: second teams of the leading clubs played here and they were not allowed to play in the Second Division. This made promotion a bit weird. For some reason, only 5 teams were promoted this year – that was to even the odd number of teams playing in the Second Division, but the criteria was murky: no team was promoted from Group Est. Why? The question stays. And it was not the only oddity.

Group Centre was won by AJ Auxerre II. They were illegible for promotion, so the second placed team goes up. Well, no – INF Vichy was second and not promoted. One can only speculate – they either refused promotion or failed some other criteria, possibly financial, and were left in third level. Third St. Etienne II, also illegible, so the 4th in the table – CO Le Puy – was promoted. Such is life… finishing 4th and getting awarded for that.

Group Centre-West. FC Toulouse II won it, but was illegible for promotion.

Bourg-sous-la-Roche was promoted as second placed. However, after the season they changed name, becoming AEPB La Roche-sur-Yon.

Group Est. FC Metz II won the championship. They were illegible for promotion, but no matter, for no team was promoted from this group at all.

Group Nord. At last champion got promoted: AC Amiens.

Group Ouest. AC Le Havre II won it, but it was illegible. FC Nantes II was second – also illegible.

Stade Malherbe Caen was 3rd and lucky – they were promoted.

Group Sud: The champions – OGC Nice II – were illegible, so the second-placed was promoted – FC Valence.

That was all. Good luck to the newcomers to Second Division next year.