Yugoslavia I Division

First Division. No outsiders at all, but only favourites and they were not the usual ones.

Radnicki (Nis) finished last with 27 points. Quite a surprise – only a year or two ago this team was praised to the skies and now they were going down to second division. Top row from left: Bankovic, Binic, Pejic, Aleksic, Nikolic;

Middle row: Duvancic, Vojinovic,Mitrovic, Jocic, Zlatanovski, Milenkovic;

Sitting: Gogic, Gajic, Stojkovic, Milosevic.

Iskra (Bugojno) was not a surprise – they were expected to struggle. 17th with 27 points. One may feel sorry for them – soared to top flight for the first time in their history, but unable to last longer than a single season. Back to second division.

Vojvodina (Novi Sad) was in a midst of crisis and decline, but managed to survive – 16th with 29 points. Standing from left: Marić, Jovanic, Ćurčić, Dimitrić, Todorović, Zovko;

First row: Novaković, Đurović, Rac, Mesaroš, Vrga.

Buducnost (Titograd) – 15th with 30 points.

Dinamo (Vinkovci) did well – by their own measures – and secured at least one more season in the top division: 14th with 30 points.

Sloboda (Tuzla) – 13th with 31 points. They had their ups and downs, but generally survival on their minds. Hardly an impressive season, but reaching their main goal.

Osijek also reached their main goal – escaping relegation. 12th with 31 points.

Velez (Mostar) – shaky and not as good as they used to be. 11th with 32 points.

Pristina – 10th with 32 points. Not bad. Standing from left: Rama, Šuica, Domi, Šengulji, Mehinović, Gruevski.

Crouching: F. Domi, F. Murići, Vokri, Cana, Batrović.

Sutjeska (Niksic) – 9th with 33 points. Standing from left: Bakrač, Bajović, Radonjić, Giljen, Vukčević, Kuzeljević.

Crouching: Nenezic, Medin, Bajović, Vuković, Tupajić.

Rijeka – 8th with 34 points.

Zeljeznicar (Sarajevo) – 7th with 34 points. Hard to tell… this period was seen as a revival, but only if compared to recent disasters, plunging them to second division. Compared to the teams of late 1960s-early 70s, the current team was not even close.

Dinamo (Zagreb) – 6th with 36 points. Could be said that the competition was strong and thus nothing wrong to be just one of the leading clubs. Could be also said that Dinamo was unable to build really strong squad and was more likely to lose top players than to add new ones. Standing from left: Bogdan, Stojic, Arnautovic, Arslanovic, Dzeko, Zvezdan Cvetkovic.

First row: Cerin, Petrovic, Mlinaric, Borislav Cvetkovic, Lulic.

Vardar (Skopje) – 5th with 37 points. Excellent season for generally modest club and beginning of one of their best periods. Standing from left: Ilija Dimovski – chief of staff, Branislav Belevski, Vassil Ringov, Goran Zivanovic, Kocho Dimitrovski, Dragi Setinov, Ilija Najdoski, Milko Simovski, Angel Efremov, Cedomir Janevski, Petar Sulincevski – coach.

Crouching: Goce Aleksovski, Borce Micevski, Tomce Trajanovski, Darko Pancev, Pepi Georgievski, Gordan Zdravkov, Gore Jovanovski, Toni Savevski.

Crvena zvezda (Belgrade) – 4th with 38 points. A weak season, for sure. By the club’s standards, rather pedestrian squad. Crvena zvezda was not a club to leave things like that, though.

Partizan (Belgrade) – 3rd with 39 points. The title was out of reach, so they were just happy to finish above the arch-rivals. Top row from left: Jovo Simanić, Miloš Đelmaš, Zoran Vujičić, Nikola Marjanović, Radoslav Nikodijević, Jovica Kolb.

Middle row: Milonja Đukić, Dragi Kaličanin, Fahrudin Omerović, Slobodan Rojević. Vladimir Vermezović, Darko Belojević, Saša Petrović, Dragan Mance.

Sitting: Zvonko Varga, Admir Smajić, Miodrag Ješić, Zoran Dimitrijević, Zvonko Popović, Goran Stevanović, Nebojša Vučićević, Miodrag Radović.

A squad similar to Crvena zvezda’s: not bad, but needed additional classy players and quite below the great squads of the past.

Two teams were above the rest and battled for the title.

Hajduk (Split), covered with mud here, did what they could, but it was not their year and finished 2nd with 44 points. Like Crvena zvezda and Partizan, their current squad was good, but not great, and in need of reinforcements. Like Crvena zvezda and Partizan, Hajduk kept its leading position in Yugoslav football even when relatively weak.

FK Sarajevo had fantastic season and won the championship: 19 wins, 10 ties, 5 losses, 51-30 goal-difference and 48 points. 4 points ahead of Hajduk. Well deserved victory, wonderful success and everything, but the squad was not all that strong and it was clear case of one-time wonder. Objectivity would be lost on Sarajevo’s fans and for good reason: it was only the second title for them and they had to wait almost 20 years for it. And there was more: Sarajevo was now ahead of its city rivals Zeljeznicar, which remained with just one title. Still, this squad was not as great as the winners of the 1966-67 championship, there was no player in the current squad as great as Fazlagic – the only one who won both titles: back in 1967 as player, now as coach. A victory of the underdog is always enjoyable, though: Crvena zvezda, Partizan, Hajduk, Dinamo had stronger players and were left behind. Far behind.

Yugoslavia II Division

Second Division. As usual, the division was divided into two groups – Western and Eastern – of 18 teams each. The winners were promoted to First Division and the last 4 in each group – relegated to third level. Interestingly, three former members of the top league were relegated in the Western group – Crvenka, last in the table, Maribor, 16th, and Olimpija (Ljubljana), 15th.

Western Group.

Hard to believe, but Olimpija (Ljubljana) was going down to third level. Formation from back to front:


Podgajski, Vujnović,

Hudarin, Terčić, Lalović

Komadina, Bošnjak

Židan, Komočar, Voljč.

Radnik (Velika Gorica) was the 4th relegated team – they finished 17th – and the only one among the lowest which did not play top level football before.

Compared to the former first division members, modest Vrbas did well – 12th with 33 points.

Leotar (Trebinje), similar to Vrbas, also did relatively well – 10th with 34 points. Standing from left: Klimović, Mehić, Baraković, Grabovac, Škrbo, Primorac;

First row: Bajrić, Bešić, Zrilić, Šarović, Slato.

Olimpija was not the only long lasting top member down on its luck now – Borac (Banja Luka) was also suffering sharp decline, although not as terrible as Olimpija – they finished 8th with 35 points.

At the top of table were teams with familiar names in much better shape, trying to climb up. Proleter (Zrenjanin) ended 4th with 38 points. Spartak (Subotica) – 3rd with 42 points.

Sibenik – 2nd with 43 points.

But Celik (Zenica) bested all, finished 1st with 46 points from 21 wins, 4 ties, 9 losses, and 52-30 goal-difference, and earned promotion. They were longing to return to top flight as quickly as possible and succeeded.

Eastern Group. Compared to the Western group, fewer former top league members here and not as famous as those playing in the West. FK Bor and Napreadak (Krusevac) were no in good shape, but at least they were not so weak to face relegation. Apart from Liria (Prizren), there was no clearly weaker team, so fierce battle for escaping relegation involved about 12 teams. Kolubara, OFK Titograd, and Vellaznimi (Gjakova) lost the battle at the end and joined Liria in the unhappy move to the lower leagues.

Sloboda (Titovo Uzice) survived – 13th with 33 points. Vellaznimi also had 33 points, but Sloboda had better goal-difference- the whole difference between survival and relegation.

Perhaps the football played was not great, but the Yugoslav second division was fairly equal and competitive – no internal divisions, few points made the difference between higher and lower positions, everybody was equally close to relegation and top spot:

Rad (Belgrade) was 5th with 35 points. They had worse goal-difference than Sloboda, 13th; lost more games than Bor, 12th. How close they were to relegation during the championship? Well, quite close – Vellaznimi went down with 33 points. Kolubara and OFK Titograd finished with 31 points each. Rad fought slightly better, that was all.

Radnicki (Pirot) was 4th with 37 points, Pelister (Bitola) – 3rd with 37 points,

Novi Pazar enjoyed 2nd place with 39 points. And they had the best goal-difference this season: +24 points. But promotion was out of their reach.

OFK Beograd won the championship and was promoted: 18 wins, 8 ties, 8 losses, 53-33 goal-difference, 44 points. 6 points ahead of Novi Pazar, but it would be a mistake to think of OFK Beograd as really superior to all others – the club was in decline for quite some time, the squad was insignificant , if compared to the teams this club had in the past, and the only aim was to return to the top league. Survival there was another matter. Standing from left: Milenković, Bjelić, Stojaković, Đurić, Ivanović, Kuzmanovski;

First row: Stojadinović, Kahrović, Marković, Stevović, R. Stanković.

Well, that was that – Celik (Zenica) and OFK Beograd (Belgrade) were promoted or rather returned to first division.


Yugoslavia. Compared to the 1960s and 70s, there was slight decline – current stars were somewhat on a lesser level than those of the past and teams were not so impressive, partly due to ever increasing exports. Yet, Yugoslav football was may be the most entertaining and competitive in the Communist part of Europe. For that reason alone, let take a look at teams below second level – some former top league clubs, now having hard time; some teams not heard of yet, but going to play bigger roles in the next decade; some just staying low.

Radnicki (Kragujevac). Standing from left: Spasic,Radojevic,Vukomanovic,Terzic,Savic,Stasevic

First row: Jankovic,Stojiljkovic,Simic,Ilic,Stanojevic.

Teteks (Tetovo) Standing from left: Kečan – coach, Jonuz, Pejanović, Jakovljević,Jakimovski, Spasevski, Jovanović, Vučevski – assistant coach;

First row: Jordanovski, Bogdanovski, Tašev, Jakimovski, Mirčevski.

Obilic (Belgrade). Standing from left: M. Radinović, Vučković, Kiković, Skorupan, Dodoš, Vjetrović, Đoinčević, Šaković, Đuričanin;

First row: Purović, Gagić, Tasić, Ristić, Kamber, Bulatović, Aranitović.

For some, this squad was stronger than the one winning the title in 1997.

Timok (Zajecar).

NK Karlovac (Karlovac).

Metalac (Sisak).

Rudar (Kakanj). Standing from left: Spahic, Maras, Cebo, Paunic, Kosic, Kapo,

First row: Vrabac, Gafurovic, Brdarac, Nestorovic, Besic.

FAP (Priboj). Standing from left: Langura, Tmušić, Isailović, Ćuk, Mehinagić, Kuzeljević, Džinović, Stojević, S. Čiztmić, J. Čizmić – coach;

Crouching: Šimunović, Beganović, Rustemović, Pantović, Komarica, Ščepović, Knežević.

Majdanpek. Standing from left: Stavrić, Marić, Dimoski, Mladenović, Minčić, Višnjić

First row: Jurović, Namesnik, Simić, Ranđelović, Pandurović.

Mogren (Budva). Standing from left: Kalezic, Ratkovic, Ivancevic, Dakic, Zec, Ivanic.

Crouching: Saban, Micic, Nikolic, Kovacevic, M. Cvijovic, D. Cvijovic.

Mura (Murska Sobota). Standing from left: Kalamar, Balažić, Mertuk, Vršič, Gorza, Seršen, Vlaškalič;

First row: Ivanič, Oršoš, Cener, Cifer.

Pobeda (Prilep). Standing from left: Lj. Dimovski, Aleksovski, Tortevski, Kulevski, Ljamčevski, Milosavljević;

Crouching: Gligorovski, Velkovski, Nikodievski, V. Dimovski, G. Manevski.

NK Junak (Sinj).

Sloga (Sjenica).

USSR the Cup

Soviet Cup. Ukrainian final this year, played in June. Shakhter (Donetzk) vs Dinamo (Kiev). Shakther already had the reputation of cup-tournament specialist and Dinamo was hungry for success, for those were lean years for the club. The championship was half-way through and although Dinamo was leading, it was not at all sure they will win it – thus, the Cup had added importance. Shakhter, many felt, concentrated solely on the Cup at the expense of the championship, so they were not going to give up the final. As a result, the final was not only heavily contested, but also surprisingly entertaining.

Both teams put an extra effort and in the first half there no goals.

In the second half Dinamo scored first – a deadly long-shot by the left fullback Demyanenko made it 1-0 in the 56th minute. And two minutes later it was 2-0, thanks to eternal Blokhin. Shakhter tried to come back, but managed just one goal – the substitute Morozov scored in the 68th minute – and Dinamo won 2-1.

The captain Sergey Baltacha proudly lifted the Cup – Dinamo’s 7th already.

Frankly, it was too bad Shakhter did not win, but Dinamo was better this day. Top row from left: Valentin Elinskas, Vladimir Gavrilov, Andrey Kuz, Sergey Zhuravlev, Viktor Smigunov, Sergey Popovich. Middle row: Valery Rudakov, Aleksandr Sopko, Vladimir Parkhonenko, Mikhail Sokolovsky, Sergey Yaschenko, Igor Petrov. Low row: Sergey Pokidin, Igor Simonov, Aleksey Varnavsky, Anatoly Rodenko, Valery Goshkoderya, Oleg Smolyaninov. Not a bad squad, but largely second-raters, including the few who played for Dinamo (Kiev) previously and were eventually dismissed.

Dinamo (Kiev) won a double this year, but it was far from clear in June – at the moment, only the Cup mattered and they won it. The title was only a distant possibility, so this victory was cherished greatly – it was turning the table back to success. Any success.

Standing from left: V. Evseev, ?, A. Mikhailichenko, V. Ratz, A. Puzach – assistant coach, O. Blokhin, O. Kuznetzov, V. Veremeev – team chief, M. Mikhailov, V. Lobanovsky – coach, P. Yakovenko, E. Evtushenko.

Front row: ?, I. Belanov, V. Malyuta – doctor, V. Evlantyev – maseur, I. Yaremchuk, A. Zavarov, A. Bal, S. Baltacha, V. Bessonov, A. Demyanenko.

The importance of this victory would be more appreciated one year later, but it had big value for the moment as well – the group of young talented players got the taste of victory, that was important. The team as a whole showed character, for it was not a squad without problems: first, the regular goalkeeper was out for the season with broken arm and his double – Mikhailov – was questionable. He already had his chance and was number one – and not so good, so Viktor Chanov was taken from no other but Shakhter (Donetzk). The other problem was the right fullback – there was no good enough player at this position, so the midfielder Bal was moved there – a risky idea, but it worked. Blokhin, already well over 30, moved back, playing mostly as a mid-fielder. Igor Belanov, a moody winger, new to the team, was getting comfortable at that time, but still was considered risky. It was somewhat unsettled team, which needed badly some success just to stay on track and improve. The Cup victory was timely, boosting moral and confidence. There was still a lot to be done – perhaps most in personal relations, for some tension is detectable in the words of Baltacha, introducing his teammates: more than eager attempt to paint a rosy pictures, often repeating ‘believe me’ and mostly speaking what good person is such and such, but in the same time… Demyanenko and not the living legend Blokhin was hailed as the team leader. But the leader was not captaining the team… neither legendary Blokhin, nor arguably the best player of USSR at this time Bessonov. Baltacha went out of his way to praise the second goalkeeper Mikhailov, saying that the whole defensive line plays better when he was between the posts and he was the nicest person ever in the dressing room, but the captain’s words about Blokhin and Bessonov were rather cold, minimal, and routine. This victory perhaps improved relations, especially between players and authoritative coach Lobanovsky – at least to the point of finding common ground in winning. A victory, which can be seen as a turning point and the base on which the following year with its enormous success was build.

USSR I Division

First Division. First of all, rules. A limit of 10 ties and no points for those ties above the limit. Five teams lost points because of the rule – Kairat (Alma-Ata) most of all, 3 points. However, most teams were ‘wise’ and lost points were not only few, but did not affect final standings. Face-to-face results determined positions in case of equal points and only if teams were still equal goal-difference was applied – the last point saved Dinamo (Moscow). The coming reduction of the league made the battle for survival most important – and also justified the reduction, for one round before the end of the championship, for 8 clubs were in danger of relegation at that point. The last two were directly relegated; the 15th and 16th teams were going to promotion/relegation play-off against the winners of Second Division. At the top end of the table the battle ended a bit earlier, when Dinamo (Kiev) secured the title. It was not overwhelming victory, but it was a bit surprising one – Dinamo was not playing very good in the recent years and was not expected to improve suddenly. But they did, although not at their peak yet. Spartak (Moscow) proved to be eternal loser – once again, the most they could do was to finish 2nd. The recent provincial champions proved to be just good – not great – and thus unable to repeat their successes. The decline of Dinamo (Moscow), Ararat (Erevan), and Dinamo (Tbilisi) continued and now it looked like Shakhter (Donetzk) was joining the sorry bunch. One irritating point was the artificial pitch used in Moscow to which visitors had no way to adapt – the pitch gave enormous advantage to the Moscow teams and was even decisive on some occasions, but complains fell on death ears.

SKA (Rostov) was the hopeless outsider of the championship – last with 21 points. If anything, they confirmed the massive decline of Army clubs – there will be no such team in the next championship.

Fakel (Voronezh) was 17th with 27 points. They did what they could, but were generally expected to be relegated and did not disappoint – they and SKA were directly relegated.

The big drama was above the last two – the dangerous spots had to be avoided and that was decided in the last round, where sheer will seemingly helped, for direct opponents met. Ararat and Shakhter ended in a 3-3 tie. The clash between Neftchi and Dinamo (Moscow) ended scoreless. And Chernomoretz lost at home to Kairat 0-1. After that…

Neftchi (Baku) was 16th with 28 points and going to promotion/relegation play-off.

Chernomoretz (Odessa) was 15th with 29 points. What a plunge down… this is picture of the team against Real (Madrid), playing for the UEFA Cup. The previous season was great and now – going to promotion/relegation play-off. Chernomoretz was a bit unlucky, for they were 15th only because of worse goal-difference. Then again… who lost its most important home game of the season?

Dinamo (Moscow) barely survived – 14th with 29 points. Better goal-difference helped them, but, frankly, it could have been just fine if they were relegated. The decline was seemingly endless… perhaps a relegation would have shaken them from the stupor.

Ararat (Erevan) – 13th with 30 points. Their last match may have been fixed – the 3-3 tie with neighbours Shakhter gave neither team a point and it looked like a gamble: keep the already earned 30 points and hope those below to lose their own matches. It worked… Dinamo (Moscow) got 1 point and Chernomoretz – 0. However, if those clubs won, Ararat was going down. And if Ararat won, then Shakhter was in danger… so, suspect tie. It kept Shakther safe and Ararat almost safe.

Shakther (Donetzk) – 12th with 30 points, but, curiously, with positive goal-difference. It looked like they gave up on the championship and concentrated on the Cup, but such argument is lame: the Cup final was played at mid-season. Rather, Shakhter betrayed signs of coming crisis.

Torpedo (Kutaisi) looked good in the final table – 11th with 31 points. But that only thanks to 2-1 home victory in the last round – Dinamo (Kiev) had nothing to play for and was generous. Torpedo survived, that was the reality. However, if Dinamo still had to fight for the title… Torpedo could have been down to promotion/relegation play-offs.

Metallist (Kharkov) – 10th with 31 points. Nothing special this season, but managed to survive a bit earlier than most and the last round did not matter to them.

Kairat (Alma-Ata) – 9th with 32 points. Thanks to their last minute victory in Odessa. Happy survivors, but the only thing to say about them was that they lost most points to 10-ties-limit rule.

Dinamo (Tbilisi) – 8th with 32 points. Decline was the word.

Zhalgiris (Kaunas) – 7th with 32 points. Not that many points, but this was a bright team, settling comfortably in the top league and gaining experience. One of the noticeable teams, expected to climb higher in the future.

Zenit (Leningrad) – 6th with 35 points. Nobody expected them to win a second title, but the team disappointed in the European Champions Cup and generally it was felt they underperformed. First row from left: Vedeneev, Vorobyov, Dolgopolov, Afanassyev, Chukhlov, Zakharikov, Kuznetzov.

Standing: Mikhaylichenko – masseur, Melnikov, Gerassimov, Davydov, Barannik, Dmitriev, Stepanov, Biryukov, Sadyrin – coach.

Torpedo (Moscow) – 5th with 36 points. The best of the ‘lower’ teams, for the 4 teams above were in their own separate category. Crouching form left: A. Petrov – masseur, Dozmorov, Prigoda, Gostenin, Redkous, Petrakov, Petrenko, A. Solovyev, N. Sarychev, Yu. Sarychev, Filatov – assistant coach.

Second row: Ivanov – coach, Zhendarev – administrator, Susloparov, Buryak, Sarychev, Pivtzov, Polukarov, Kobzev, Zhupikov, N. Vassilyev, V. Kruglov, Proyaev – doctor, Zolotov – team chief.

Torpedo was criticized – along with Dnepr and Dinamo (Kiev) – for passive play and disrespect for the game and the public and the accusations were true, but so what? There was almost nothing to play for near the end of the season – Torpedo was safe and up in the table, but the very top was unreachable. Nothing new, in their case, for the club maintained good squad, but generally of second-stringers, some of them aging.

Dinamo (Minsk) – considered one of the candidates for the title, as all recent champions, but not an outstanding leader. Dinamo had limited options, like most provincial club, and it was almost a miracle they were able to keep their stars. But it was pretty much the same team which won the title a bit back – may be no worse, but certainly no better. No great new recruits. 4th with 41 points – mostly because of weak finish, but their most important losses came against direct opponents playing home games on artificial pitch. This was too much Dinamo, used to grass.

Top row from left: Aleksandr Chernukho – masseur, Aleksandr Gorbylev, Sergey Gorlukovich, Lyudas Rumbutis, Aleksandr Metlitzky, Andrey Sosnitzky, Viktor Sokol, Vassily Dmitrakov – doctor, Mikhail Tzeytin – assistant coach.

3rd row: Ivan Savostikov – assistant coach, Yury Trukhan, Aleksandr Kisten, Mikhail Vergeenko – assistant coach, Ivan Zhekyu, Andrey Zygmantovich, Andrey Shalimo, Leonid Vassilevsky – administrator.

2nd row: Yury Kurnenin, Viktor Yanushevsky, Leonid Garay – team chief, Veniamin Arzamastzev – coach, Igor Gurinovich, Viktor Shishkin.

Front row: Georgy Kondratyev, Sergey Gotzmanov, Sergey Aleynikov, Sergey Borovsky.

Dnepr (Dnepropetrovsk) – 3rd with 42 points. Perhaps the most promising team at the time, but hardly stronger than the other leading teams. One of the teams accused of disrespecting the sport and the fans this season. What Dnepr was not accused of was their super-physical way of playing – very often they were dangerous, but somehow the truly ugly side of their football never came under criticism in USSR.

Spartak (Moscow) – 2nd with 46 points. This was painfully familiar trend: every year Spartak was considered prime favorite for the title and every year they failed. The most consistent Soviet team, but second-best. Their coach Konstantin Beskov blamed recruitment difficulties and perhaps he was right – at best, Spartak was able to match the quality of exiting players with those of newcomers. No more than that, so there was good regular team – good, but almost always with a weak post or two – and rather insignificant group of reserves. Why Spartak, considered not only leading team, but the one playing the most exciting football in the country, was unable to attract top-level talent could be asked of the coaching staff – were they blind? After the end of the season 3 leading players left and none similar to them arrived.

Dinamo (Kiev) was the championship with 20 wins, 8 ties, and 6 losses. 64-26 and 48 points. Easy to shrug shoulders today and say ‘who else’, but it was surprise victory in 1985. Dinamo had tough spell in recent years, so they were not seen as top favorite. Further, the squad was unusually short for Lobanovsky’s team – strong regulars, but nobody worth mentioning behind them. Further: frictions between coach and players were no longer just dark rumors, but public knowledge – Leonid Buryak, for instance, was not shy at all and did not hide why he went Torpedo (Moscow) from journalist. Tremors of this period can still be heard today – recently a player, who left Dinamo, spoke of 1983 in this way: ‘talent sat on the bench and Lobanovky’s pets were on the pitch’. Tense relations were seen as part of Dinamo’s recent failures. And finally Chanov broke his arm and missed a considerable chunk of the season – just as Dinamo finally got decent goalkeeper. So, Dinamo was seen as one of leaders, but no stronger than Spartak, Dnepr, Dinamo (Minsk), and Zenit. Unlikely winner. And it was not an easy victory, perhaps helped a bit by inconsistent performance and various weaknesses of the rivals. It was essentially the work of tied short team – a cluster of 12-13 regulars, supported by typical Dinamo group of reliable second-stringers, 3 or 4, who would never be regulars, but just support for a few years and then dismissed. 14 players really played this season – V. Khlus, the author of the accusation mentioned above, appeared only twice! As a whole, Dinamo was not exactly an impressive team, but they stepped up a bit near the end of the season – especially in their European games, and at least the foundation of the great football they played in 1986 was laid. Well, 11th title. Difficult one, yes, but compared to the rivals, Dinamo had superior team – well-rounded, slightly deeper than what others had, and the top players of USSR were really here. Dinamo was also the only club having no problems of recruitment – they took anybody they wanted, which was mainly robbing the other Ukrainian clubs of their stars – Dnepr was already on the list: they had goalscoring machine, Oleg Protassov, and Dinamo was not going to leave him there.

USSR II Division

Second Division. A new formula was introduced this season – the Second Division was divided into 2 groups of 11 teams each for the first stage. Then the top 6 teams of each group went to final group competing for promotions and the bottom 5 – to the relegation group. 12 teams played in the upper group and 10 and lower one in the second stage. Which was not the final one yet – because of the reduction of the top league, there were no direct promotions this year. The top two teams in the final table simply went to promotion/relegation final stage against the 15th and the 16th in First Division. At the bottom three teams were going down, as usual, but not directly – they were to play promotion/relegation stage with the Third Division zonal winners. The league was going to enlargement from 22 to 24 teams, because of the reduction of the top division, but also the new formula of the championship was more suitable for 24 teams, divided into 2 groups of 12 teams, instead of the current odd number. The new formula hardly improved anything and perhaps this season left mostly bitter feelings.

Group B, the relegation group, ended with already mentioned Zvezda (Dzhizak) – last, Iskra (Smolensk), 9th (21st), and Krylya Sovetov (Kyubishev), 8th (20th). Of them, only Iskra managed to win at the promotion/relegation stage.

Krylya Sovetov (Kuybishev) was the big loser and not only because they played ever so often top league football – if there was no limit on ties, they would have been safe. But they exceeded the limit by 3 ties and thus lost 3 points and perished.

Nistru (Kishinev) benefited by Krylya Sovetov’s misfortune – they clinched safety: 7th. Kuban (Krasnodar) was 6th, Guria (Lanchkhuti) – 5th, Pakhtakor (Tashkent) – 2nd. Severe decline of clubs usually in the upper half of the table or in the First Division. But that was only the relegation group of the league.

Group A was different matter – or at least supposed to be different. Five teams were just enjoying safety – hardly the teams expected to be among the strongest, they had good season and managed to climb to upper group, where life was easy – they had no reason to really fight and settled for the 5 lowest places. Three other clubs were also disinterested in aiming higher, but these were teams usually dwelling in the upper half of the table. Thus, four teams were set apart, stronger and more ambitious, and they fought for the top 2 places. Eventually, one team pulled ahead and won the championship early, leaving the others to battle for second place.

Shinnik (Yaroslavl) took 7th place with 42 points. Crouching from left: V. Nikonov, S. Smirnov, V. Bakin, V. Gavrilov – masseur, D. Popov, Sukhov, V. Dubachev.

Middle row: Yu. Kazankov – bus driver, V. Petrov – team’s chief, A. Piskunov, B. Gavrilov, A. Goryukhov, A. Tzenin, E. Martyanov, Yu. Rodionov, S. Novosselov, S. Saraev – doctor, V. Chistyakov – coach.

Top row: V. Kossarev, V. Kasyan, Yu. Panteleev, V. Churkin, M. Morozov, V. Sotnikov, L. Zyuzin, A. Noskov, D. Kuritzyn, A. Kkassanshin – administrator.

Lokomotiv (Moscow) finished 6th with 43 points.

Kolos (Nikopol) – 5th with 46 points.

Masters of staying high in the table, but carefully avoiding the risk of promotion… Shinnik was the old specialist of this game, now Lokomotiv and Kolos seemingly got the same attitude.

Pamir (Dushanbe) was 4th with 52 points. They lost the battle for promotion – well, semi-promotion – at the end of the championship. Traditionally, Pamir was the same as Shinnik – good, but lacking ambition. Or playing cleverly – it was better to be 5th or 7th in Second Division than dead last in First Division. Their sudden foray to the top was surprising, but they either lost steam at the end of the season or came to their senses and dropped out. Nobody could tell for sure: young, talented, and ambitious coach Yury Semin drove its experienced and generally good squad up. The players, however, used to safe existence were more than capable of quietly boycotting their coach at the end.

SKA Karpaty (Lvov) took 3rd place with 54 points. They were more likely to aim higher, but were not all that strong in the earlier phases of the championship and their strong finish was not enough. However, they lost 2nd place on worse goal-difference.

CSKA (Moscow) clinched 2nd place with 54 points. Now, this was a club wanting very much to return to First Division, but the squad was not strong enough. They mostly maintained 3rd position this season, eventually losing the chance to win the league and barely finishing 2nd, which may have been a result of ‘wise’ dropping down by Pamir.

Daugava (Riga) was surprise, but, as it turned out, immediately forgotten champion of Second Division. Steady season with strong finish – near the end of the season, they managed to build a good cushion and won early the championship. At the final table, they were 6 points ahead of CSKA. 24 wins, 12 ties, 6 losses, 78-35 goal-difference and 60 points (2 points lost for exceeding the limit of ties). Once upon a time, in very distant past by now, Daugava played top-league football, but eventually dropped down to third division and out of sight and mind. Only recently they climbed back o Second Division and won this championship before people at large getting familiar with the squad. Anonymous team, having to its credit only one thing: there was noticeable revival of Baltic football, pulled ahead by Lithuanian Zhalgiris. Daugava – and third division Atlantas – followed the example. May be they would become known – after all, Zhalgiris was anonymous squad only 2-3 years ago. Local talent – that was good, that was promising. Alas, speculations stopped right there.

No direct promotions this year, because of the reduction of First Division – Daugava and CSKA went to promotion/relegation play-offs against the 15th and the 16th in the top league, Chernomoretz (Odessa) and Neftchi (Baku). The best second-division clubs were outplayed without any fuss.

Chernomoretz finished 1st with 3 wins and 3 ties, Neftchi – 2nd with 2 wins, 3 ties, losing 1 match, CSKA was 3rd with 1 win, 3 ties, and 2 losses, Daugava – last with 1 win, 1 tie, and 4 losses. Chernomoretz and Neftchi kept their places in the top league, CSKA and Daugava remained in the second division. And thus Daugava was forgotten right away.

USSR III Division

USSR. Never ending reforms… the championship of the Second Division went through new formula, the top league was going to be reduced to 16 teams and promotion/relegation was affected, 10 ties was still the limit – no points for those going over it.

The winners of the 9 zones of Third Division proceeded to the usual qualification tournament for promotion, but this time they were joined by the last 3 finishers in the Second Division. 12 teams divided in three groups, winners going to play in the Second Division. Frankly, the idea was not great – second division was a problem every year, because most teams were weak or lacked ambition, yet, it was enlarged to 24 teams. The weakest had a good chance to stay as well under the new concept – if winning their promotion/relegation groups. Then again, teams promoted from third level usually went down quickly, so no much harm if they did not come up at all.

The following teams entered the promotion/relegation round: Sokhibkor (Khalkiabad), Tavria (Simferopol), Mertzkhali (Makharadze), Zvezda (Perm), Dinamo (Bryansk), Geolog (Tyumen), Rostselmash (Rostov), Atlantas (Klaipeda), Meliorator (Chimkent) as winners of Third Division 9 zones. Krylya Sovetov (Kuybishev), 20th, Iskra (Smolensk), 21st, and Zvezda Dzhizak), 20th – the last three in the Second Division final table. The 12 teams were divided into 3 groups of which only Group 1 appeared strong: along with Zvezda (Dzhizak), 2 former second division members – Rostselmash and Tavria.

Rostselmash (Rostov) finished first and earned promotion. Too bad for Tavria, which played in the First Division not long ago – they were 2nd and remained in Third Division. Zvezda (Dzhizak) was 3rd and Sokhibkor – last.

Group 2. Krylya Sovetov was expected to win the group and stay in Second Division, but it was hollow expectation based on name alone. Krylya Sovetov was going through terrible period – perhaps their worst in history – and finished last in the group. The Georgian team Mertzkhali ended 3rd, Zvezda (Perm) – 2nd, and Atlantas (Klaipeda) won promotion. Baltic football was doing well at this time – after years of obscurity.

Group 3. Iskra (Smolensk) not only won the tournament, but was the strongest team at this stage – they won 5 games and tied one, 11 points. Rostselmash also won 5 games in their group, but lost the 6th match. Anyhow, Iskra preserved its place in the Second Division, the only one of the second-level clubs achieving that. Meliorator was 2nd, Geolog – 3rd, and Dinamo – last.

Thus, promoted for the next season were Rostselmash (Rostov), Atlantas (Klaipeda), and Iskra (Smolensk) kept its place.

Scotland the Cups

The Scottish Cups were left to ‘lesser’ teams.

Dundee United made attempts at both cups this season, but they were beaten in both finals. Unfortunate, that, but no trophy for this still nice squad.

Rangers won the Scottish League Cup, prevailing over Dundee United 1-0. They saved face, so to say.

Celtic also won a trophy – after beating Dundee United 2-0, the FA Cup was in their hands. Good, bad, or ugly, Celtic and Rangers always managed to win something. Better than nothing, yet, the title mattered most… and both mighty clubs were reduced to battling for consolation prizes.

Scotland I Division

First Division. Most amusing championship, but in any positive way – a 10-team league sharply divided into 4 groups. And further division at the very top.

Greenock Morton, just promoted, finished last with pathetic 12 points. They really distinguished themselves – received exactly 100 goals this season.

Dumbarton, the second newcomer, was 9th with 19 points. Better than Greenock Morton, but still a hopeless outsider. Thus, both newcomers were relegated and, frankly, did not deserve to play top-league football.

The next 2 teams were quite weak, but still head and shoulders above the outsiders and never in danger of relegation.

Hibernian – 8th with 27 points.

Heart of Midlothian – 7th with 31 points.

The next 3 teams battled between themselves, but entirely apart from both those bellow and above them.

Dundee – 6th with 37 points.

St. Mirren – 5th with 38 points. Not bad – for them.

Glasgow Rangers – 4th with 38 points. Well… that was that: famous Rangers was now a midtable team, prevailing over St. Mirren on goal-difference. A statement in itself.

The top 3 – unquestionably stronger than the rest of the league, but not equal between themselves either. Everyone held its own separate position.

Dundee United – 3rd with 47 points. 9 points ahead of Glasgow Rangers – impressive. 5 points behind Celtic – impressive? Strong, but so far away from the title.

Celic – 2nd with 52 points. Perhaps it was best to compare them only to the archrival: Rangers was pathetic, Celtic was strong. Much stronger than Dundee United too. And stop here… better not compare them to the champions: Celtic was 7 points behind.

Aberdeen was flying – champions in 1983-84, now again. In the both championships they did not allow any team to come close – 7 points difference the previous season, 7 points difference now. 27 wins, 5 ties, 4 losses, 89-26, 59 points. A bit better record than the previous season.

Sky was the limit for this wonderful squad? Reality was the limit, unfortunately – the mastermind waiving in the middle of the champagne drinkers was going away and to new glory. Inevitable… no matter how good a Scottish club could be, an English one will always be the better option. And if this English club is Manchester United, there was no argument whatsoever. Gordon Strachan already joined Manchester United, now Alex Ferguson. Aberdeen was not going to be really strong anymore, that was clear. So, let party now as heavy as possible, for there will be no opportunity any time soon.


Scotland. Fragmentation. Perhaps this is the most one could say: no chance of lower level club to rise and extremely divided top league. The bleak future of Scottish football was written on the wall.

Third Division. Clearly cut into two halves – 7 teams way stronger than the other 7. But no matter, only winners count here.

Alloa Athletic clinched 2nd place with 50 points.

Montrose won the championship with 53 points. Both teams earned promotions to Second Division.

Second Division – the most equal championship this season, except for the outsider – St. Johnstone. Meadowbank Thistle had 7 points more than the outsider, but still were next to lat and out along with poor St. Johnstone.

Clydebank took 2nd place with 48 points and was promoted.

Motherwell won the championship with 50 points. Relegated the previous season, but evidently not for second level football either. Up right away, hopefully for longer than a single season.