West Germany the Cup

The German Cup final opposed Werder to Kaiserslautern. Given their performance in the league, coaches and players, Werder had more than an edge. But on the field names and previous performances meant nothing and the underdog prevailed 3-2.
Werder (Bremen) lost the final and if somebody had to be blamed, then Rehhagel, Bode, Eilts, Wolter, Borowka, Bratseth, Freund, Votava, Burgsmuller, Riedle, Reck, had to blame only themselves.
1. FC Kaiserslautern – Cup winners for the first time! Standing from left: Karlheinz Feldkamp – coach, Marcus Schupp, Roger Lutz, Bruno Labbadia, Frank Lelle, Franco Foda, Grzegorz Wiezik, Kay Friedmann, Reinhard Stumpf. Crouching: Herbert Hoos, Axel Roos, Uwe Scherr, Michael Serr, Stefan Kuntz, Gerald Ehrmann, Demir Hotic, Thomas Dooley.
A rather modest squad… even the imports hardly rung any bell: Demir Hotic was not called to play for Yugoslavia for quite some time, Thomas Dooley was… American and Americans were hardly known, even their best. A triumph of the underdog for sure and that is always pleasing, although nobody expects future success of an underdog. But for 1. FC Kaiserslautern it was different – it was historic success: not only their first Cup, but first trophy since very distant 1953, when they won the West German title. And this seemingly accidental success was just a foundation on which to build – the right coach was already there, some good players, even if not first-rate stars, and with some right additions… but that was for the future.

West Germany I Division

First Division – Bundesliga. Compared to Italy and Spain, the German clubs imported foreign players of lower rank and at the moment, largely East Europeans and practically no South Americans. Clubs went up and down, Bayern stayed constantly on top. In a nutshell, that was all.
FC 08 Homburg – last with 24 points and relegated.
Waldhof (Mannheim) – 17th with 26 points and relegated.
VfL Bochum – 16th with 29 points and going to promotion/relegation play-off. Masters of survival, Bochum – they extracted 1-0 victory away against the 3rd in the Second Division, 1. FC Saarbrucken, and then kept 1-1 draw at home. Enough to stay in the Bundesliga.
Borussia (Moenchengladbach) barely survived – 15th with 30 points.
Bayer 05 (Uerdingen) – 14th with 30 points. Ahead of Borussia (M) on better goal-difference.
FC St. Pauli (Hamburg) – 13th with 31 points.
1. FC Kaiserslautern – 12th with 31 points. Nothing much in the league, but this happened to be the most successful season for the club since 1953.
Hamburger SV – 11th with 31 points.
Karlsruher SC – 10th with 32 points.
Fortuna (Dusseldorf) – 9th with 32 points.
1. FC Nurnberg – 8th with 33 points.
SV Werder (Bremen) – 7th with 34 points.

VfB Stuttgart – 6th with 36 points.
Bayer 04 (Leverkusen) – 5th with 39 points.
Borussia (Dortmund) – 4th with 41 points.
Eintracht (Frankfurt) – 3rd with 41 points. Ahead of Borussia (D) on better goal-difference.

1. FC Koln – 2nd with 43 points. Strong season, but not strong enough to challenge sufficiently Bayern.
And one more triumphal season for Bayern – sole leaders, no matter what. 19 wins, 11 ties, only 4 lost games, 64-28, and 49 points. Way above the rest, excellent coaching by once-upon-a-time rival Jupp Heynckes and – routinely – the strongest squad in the league, with one weak position – the goalkeeper. That is, comparatively weak post, but this situation would be remedied soon. Perhaps this squad was not great when compared to some earlier vintages, but currently the other German teams were not so great either and Bayern was head and shoulders above them and only the present really counts.
And in the present Bayern won its 12th title and proudly photographed the squad in retro-kit, no doubt a bit of fancy advertisement of their current sponsor, which did not pay the club just to win trophies, but also to promote and sell cars.

Of course, the cars were not the 1899 model, but the modest current Kadett, which probably no Bayern player owned. So… perhaps Opel was the real champion of West Germany this season.

West Germany II Division

Second Division – 2. Bundesliga. 20 teams, the last 4 relegated to the regional leagues, the top 2 promoted to the Bundesliga and the 3rd going to promotion/relegation play-off against the 16th in the top league.
SpVgg Unterhaching ended last with 29 points and relegated.
Alemannia (Aachen) – 19th with 30 points and relegated.
SpVgg Bayreuth – 18th with 31 points and relegated.
Hessen (Kassel) – 17th with 33 points, but worse goal-difference than SV Darmstadt 98 and VfL Osnabruck relegated them.
SV Darmstadt 98 – lucky, thanks to better goal-difference: 16th with 33 points.
VfL Osnabruck – 15th with 33 points, having best goal-difference among the 3 teams with same points.
Fortuna (Koln) – 14th with 34 points. Having perhaps the most famous player in the Second Division – Tony Woodcock, who at his prime played for 1.FC Koln and England. Now… fighting to escape relegation.
SC Freiburg – 13th with 34 points.
SC Preussen (Munster) – 12th with 36 points.
SV Meppen – 11th with 36 points.
MSV Duisburg – 10th with 37 points. Top row from left: Woelk, Vtic, J. Kessen, Decker, Thiele, Kober, Lienen, Azzouzi, Janssen
Middle row: Co-Trainer Merheim, Telljohann, Notthoff, Tönnies, Puszamszies, Struckmann, Steininger, Callea, Semlits, Trainer Kremer
Front row: Zeugwart Ricken, Voßnacke, Kellermann, Macherey, Rusche, Mariotti, Zils, Schmidt, Masseur Hinkelmann
Blau-Weiss 90 (starting as a team from West Berlin, ending the season as a team from one unified Berlin) – 9th with 37 points.
Hannover 96 – of Hannoverscher SV 96 – 8th with 38 points. The well-known Yugoslav coach Cendic, however, is a wrong face here: his work with Hannover was very brief – only in the summer and the very start of the championship.
Eintracht (Braunschweig) – 7th with 39 points.
Rot-Weiss (Essen) – 6th with 42 points.
FC Schalke 04 – 5th with 43 points.
Stuttgarter Kickers – 4th with 45 points.
1. FC Saarbrucken – 3rd with 46 points. Went to the promotion/relegation play-off and lost to VfL Bochum 0-1 and 1-1. Thus, they stayed in Second Division.
SG Wattenscheid 09 – 2nd with 51 points and promoted to the Bundesliga.
Hertha BSC (By mid-season the Berlin wall was down and they were no longer representing West Berlin, but the whole city – just Berlin) – champions this season with 53 points. 22 wins, 9 ties, 7 losses and 65-39 goal-difference. Not overwhelming champions, but the prime goal was achieved: return to the Bundesliga. That perhaps counted more than Second Division title, but it did not hurt at all to be champions.

West Germany III Level

West Germany. When the season started there were still two states, BRD and DDR, then in mid-season unification happened and at the end of the season Germany was one – but not in football yet, so the old championships remained, there was still DDR national team playing and the next season was still going to be separate somewhat. Players, however, moved freely from East German to West German clubs, not in flocks, but whoever was highly talented moved West. So, the West German system remained intact at the end of this season, including league movements for the next season.
A glimpse at the West German lower levels, the regional ones – only a pictorial fragment. Little known clubs, most of them, but also some recognizable names.
SpVgg 07 Ludwigsburg
FV Offenburg
VfB Bad Rappena
Blumenthaler
FSV Frankfurt
SV Sandhausen
Wormatia (Worms). Top row from left: Masseur Panosiadis Choudalakes, Markus Braden, Manuel Padilla, Milos Ljusic, Heinz-Jürgen Schlösser, Stefan Steinmetz, Jürgen Klotz.
Middle row: Liga-Obmann Jürgen Krafczyck, Zeugwart Günter Reinhardt, Rainer Heilmann, Bernd Eck, Günter Braun, Jürgen Goschler, Co-Trainer Peter Klag, Trainer Dr. Stefan Lottermann, Geschäftsführender Vorsitzender Manfred Brassen.
Sitting: Slavko Klappan, Stefan Glaser, Frank Schuster, Armin Reichel, Günter Knecht, Marc Bals, Frank Spölgen, Marc Schall, Präsident Helmut Rödler.
Kickers (Offenbach)
TSV 1860 (Munich). Top row from left: Ralph Müller-Gesser, Markus Wolf, Martin Spanring, Jürgen Wolke, Norbert Rolshausen, Horst Schmidbauer, Reiner Maurer.
Middle row: Trainer Willi Bierofka, Co-Trainer Zittl, Roland Kneißl, Stephan Beckenbauer, Bernhard Meisl, Walter Hainer, Srdjan Colakovic, Masseure Hodrius und Lebmeier.
Front: Stephan Windsperger, Reinhold Breu, Andreas Wächter, Markus Lach, Bobby Dekeyser, Andreas Geyer, Albert Gröber, Armin Störzenhofecker.
Of course, the regional champions are important here – 9 of them, 5 in the North and 4 in the South, which played final promotion tournaments and the top 2 in them got promoted to the Second Division.
The Northern champions were:
Oberliga Nordrhein: Wupertaller SV; Oberliga Westfalen: Arminia (Bielefeld); Oberliga Berlin: Reinickerndirfer Füchse; Oberliga Nord (1st): VfB Oldenburg; Oberliga Nord (2nd): TSV Havelse.
The Southern champions:
Oberliga Bayern: 1.FC Schweinfurt 05; Oberliga Hessen:
Rot-Weiss (Frankfurt),
Oberliga Baden-Wurttemberg: SSV Reutlingen; Oberliga Sudwest: FSV Mainz 05.
In the South promotion earned:
FSV Mainz 05 and
1. FC Schweinfurt 05.
In the North, Arminia (Bielefeld) failed to win promotion. The promoted teams were:
TSC Havelse and
VfB Oldenburg.
Good luck to the newly promoted in the Second Division next season.

USSR the Cup

The Soviet Cup was also a sign of future – Dinamo (Kiev) vs Lokomotiv (Moscow). The top team in the country vs the 4th in the Second Division. The great Valery Lobanovsky, with all his fame against Yury Semin, the new breed of young coaches. The past vs the future, in a sense, although at the time nobody saw it like that and what happened on the field did not suggest a change: Dinamo destroyed Lokomotiv 6-1, entirely predicted victory.
Lokomotiv (Moscow) was not ready yet for something big. Yes, there was progress and they were promising team and coach, but still in the making – as not only the lost Cup final, but also their 4th place in the Second Division showed. Still, it was interesting and and refreshing to see traditionally modest club playing Second Division football to play at the Cup final – such thing happened very rarely in USSR and actually only once a Second Division team won the Cup. Well, no second surprise.
Well, the Cup was the first trophy of the season won by Dinamo and at the end they finished with a double. Apart from that, the winning squad shows how rapidly changed Soviet teams at this time – it is quite different squad than the one at the end of 1990. Crouching from left: P. Shvydky – masseur, V. Evlantiev – masseur, S. Kovaletz, A. Mikhailichenko, V. Ratz, S. Shmatovalenko, O. Protassov, A. Chubarov – administrator, B. Derkach. To row: A. Puzach – assistant coach, O. Matovetzky – administrator, V. Malyuta – doctor, O. Kuznetzov, O. Luzhny, V. Chanov, V. Lobanovsky – coach, A. Tzveiba, O. Salenko, V. Veremeev – team chief, A. Demyanenko, A. Bal, G. Litovchenko, M. Mikhailov, S.Zaetz.
Because of the changes, one more photo of the double winners, which is perhaps more in tune with the main heroes of the season.

USSR I Division

Premier League or First Division. Scheduled for 16 teams, started with 14, actually played and finished with 13. Because of this, relegation was readjusted: no team was directly going down, the last in the table was going to promotion/relegation playoff against the 4th in the Second Division. Under the circumstances at that time, looked like that Dinamo (Kiev) would have no rival, but it was not exactly like expected – new force came up from behind. In view of future disintegration of USSR and changes in the make of the league let see to which republics belonged the current members: Russia had 5 teams, Ukraine – also 5, Armenia, Belarus, and Tadjikistan had 1 teams each – in time, 8 teams of this league will be out.
Rotor (Volgograd, Russia) finished last and in the last minute too with 14 points. They still had a chance to remain in the top league, but eventually lost the playoff against Lokomotiv (Moscow) and were relegated.

Dinamo (Minsk, Belarus) barely escaped relegation – 12th with 15 points. Not a trace of the team which won the Soviet title less than a decade ago. Top row from left: Aleksandr Chernukho – masseur, Pavel Rodnenok, Fedor Sikorsky, Sergey Shiroky, Erik Yakhimovich, Yury Vergeychik, Sergey Pavlyuchuk, Sergey Gomonov, Sergey Gotzmanov. Middle row: Vassily Dmitrakov – doctor, Aleksandr Taykov, Alli Alchagirov, Evgeny Kashentzev, Evgeny Kuznetzov – assistant coach, Mikhail Tzeytin – assistant coach, Ivan Shtchekin – assistant coach, Leonid Garay – team chief, Eduard Malofeev – coach, Mikhail Vergeenko – assistant coach, Mikhail Markhel, Andrey Shalimo, Andrey Zygmantovich, Aleksandr Gorbylev – assistant coach, Leonid Vassilevsky – administrator. Front row: Yury Kurbyko, Yury Antonovich, Vladimir Demidov, Aleksandr Metlitzky, Sergey Gerassimetz, Sergey Rassikin, Viktor Sokol, Igor Gurinovich, Genady Lessun, Andrey Satzunkevich.
Metallist (Kharkov, Ukraine) – 11th with 18 points. Sitting from left: A. Kanishtev, V. Suslo, R. Kolokolov, V. Simakovich, I. Kutepov, V. Dudka, V. Yalovsky, I. Panchishin, S. Ralyuchenko. Middle row: A. Zhitnik, M. Shamrilo, V. Udovenko, L. Tkachenko, A. Dovby, V. Plekhov, S. Ozeryan. Top row: D. Khomukha, O. Derevinsky, A. Ivanov, A. Baranov, V. Aristov, I. Yakubovsky, A. Essipov, V. Shtcherbak, Yu. Tarassov.
Pamir (Dushanbe, Tadjikistan) – the debutantes did fairly well: 10th with 18 points.
Chernomoretz (Odessa, Ukraine) – 9th with 19 points.
Shakhter (Donetzk, Ukraine) – 8th with 22 points. Bottom row from left: S. Yashchenko, I. Petrov, V. Grachev, V. Zeyberlinsh, V. Goshkoderya. Middle row: A. Sopko, V. Elinskas, E. Dragunov, V. Onopko. Top row: I. Leonov, A. Kanchelskis, V. Mazur, I. Stolovitzky, A. Kobozev.
Ararat (Erevan, Armenia) – 7th with 23 points.
Dnepr (Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine) – 6th with 28 points.
Spartak (Moscow, Russia) – 5th with 29 points. Standing from left: A. Hadzhi, V. Derbupov, O. Imrekov, S. Cherchessov, A. Ivanov, O. Ivanov, S. Bazulev, V. Kulkov, B. Pozdnyakov, G. Belenkon. Crouching: V. Shmarov, A. Mostovoy, I. Shalimov, V. Karpin, D. Gradilenko, D. Popov.
Torpedo (Moscow, Russia) – 4th with 30 points.
Dinamo (Moscow) – 3rd with 31 points. A very suspect photo and most likely wrongly dated – certainly Valery Gazzaev did not coach them this season, but Second Division champions Spartak (Vladikavkaz).
CSKA (Moscow, Russia) – 2nd with 31 points. The pleasant surprise of the season – CSKA was in big decline for a very long time, spending time in the Second Division during the 1980s and when coming back to the top league, unable to stay there. Now they were just promoted once again from Second Division and suddenly went to the top – and is it happened, were going to remain at the top in the future. Bottom row from left: D. Gradilenko, P. Yanushevsky, M. Eryomin, Yu. Shishkin, P. Massalitin, S. Dmitriev. Middle row: V. Murashko – team chief, I. Possokh – coach-masseur, D. Bystrov, S. Krutov, D. Kuznetzov, P. Sadyrin – coach, S. Fokin, D. Galyamin, D. Kardivar – administrator, A. Kuznetzov – assistant coach, B. Kopeykin – assistant coach. Top row: S. Kolotovkin, O. Malyukov, V. Broshin, I. Korneev, M. Kolesnikov, V. Tatarchuk, V. Shashenok – doctor.
And familiar champion: Dinamo (Kiev). After 14 wins, 6 ties, and 4 losses they had 34 points – 3 points more than CSKA – and once again took the Soviet title to Ukraine. Sitting from left: Ivan Yaremchuk, Anatoly Puzach – head coach, Vassily Ratz, Sergey Yuran, Andrey Annenkov, Vladimir Veremeev – team cheaf, Sergey Kovaletz. Middle row: Pavel Shvydky – masseur, Aleksandr Pikuzo – administrator, Genady Litovchenko, Pavel Yakovenko, Viktor Kolotov – coach, Akhrik Tzveiba, Anatoly Demyanenko, Yury Moroz, Vladimir Malyuta – doctor, Viktor Berkovsky – doctor. Top row: Valery Evlantiev – masseur, Andrey Aleksannenkov, Sergey Shmatovalenko, Viktor Chanov, Oleg Salenko, Aleksandr Zhidkov, Sergey Zaetz, Boris Derkach, Aleksandr Chubanov – administrator.
Well… kind of champion squad. Changes were happening so rapidly and they affected even a ‘grand’ club like Dinamo – this photo represents more 1991 than 1990, most likely taken near the end of the year, when the championship was already mere statistics. Already coach Valery Lobanovsky was gone and so were key players, some actually went away in mid-season when the European market was active. Others were going to leave very soon. True, Dinamo had the best players to sell and thus to get more cash than other Soviet club, which in turn gave them free hand to hire top talent not only from Ukraine, as it mainly was for years, but from the whole USSR – that was assurance they will keep their strength with one caveat: everybody was going abroad at this time and what was left was not exactly top talent. And not everybody was capable of handling the new reality: Boris Derkach, for instance, went to play in Bulgaria, then turned to crime and finally to complete obscurity and self-destruction. But the future was hard to predict and the present was… great. 13th title, a record, but also a dangerous number. Who was able to see that will be the last Soviet title for Dinamo (Kiev)? And who would have tell that this will be the eternal record of Soviet football? The fatal and ominous number 13 remains and could be changed only if USSR is restored.

USSR II Division

First League – or Second Division. Luckily, the season program was made after the Georgian teams withdrew, so at least it was a normal schedule for the 20 remaining teams in the league. Yet, the league was reduced and because of the reduction of the top division the numbers had to be made up for the next season and some teams benefited by that: 3 teams were directly promoted up and the 4th placed had to go to promotion/relegation play-off – that made possible for 4 teams to be promoted instead of the usual 2. At the bottom of the table only 1 team faced relegation instead of the usual 3. All that to make again 22-teams league next year. The clubs in the league presented little trouble, at least from the momentary standpoint, for the disintegration of the USSR was unlikely – 11 Russian teams, 2 from Ukraine, 2 from Moldova, 1 from Uzbekistan, 1 from Kazakhstan, 1 from Azerbaijan, 1 from Armenia, and 1 from… Georgia, to further complicate matters: the Georgian Federation left the Soviet Federation and Georgian clubs withdrew to play in their own national championship, but Abkhazia rebelled against that and decided to remain in the Soviet system – thus, Georgia was out and yet represented in the Soviet Second Division by Dinamo (Sukhoumi) just promoted from third level. The club, however, was in trouble before the championship started – most players were Georgians and left in the last minute and Dinamo had hastily to organize a new squad somehow. Other changes involved names – both of cities and clubs: Soviet names were replaced by either original names or names with national flavour: this, the city of Ordzhonikidze became Vladikavkaz, Gorky – Nizhny Novgorod and Moldovan newcomer Tekstilshchik (Tirasppol) was renamed Tiras after the river crossing the town. Finally, the war over Nagorno-Karabakh was a great concern – it was unsafe for other teams to play in Armenia and Azerbaijan and the fixtures between Kotaik and Neftchi even on neutral ground had to be played under heavy security measures. Kotaik could not even play in Abovyan, but had to host its home matches in Erevan, where was quieter and safer. The rest was football – a troubled football, mostly, but the season was played and finished without canceled games at least. Some suffered, some, however, benefited – traditional clubs were in great decline, particularly Zenit (Leningrad), which not only was relegated from the First Division in the previous season, but had hard time to survive in Second Division. On the other hand clubs with no great history adapted better to the new and uncertain reality and even flourished.
Kuzbass (Kemerovo), one of the traditional Second Division clubs, was absolute outsider this season – they finished last with 14 points and were relegated. Above them finished three well-known names, all former members of the First Division – Kuban (Krasnodar), 19th with 28 points, Zenit (Leningrad) – 18th with 30 points, and Kayrat (Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan) was 17th with 30 points. The trio was never in danger of relegation, but they also benefited by Georgian and Lithuanian separation from Soviet football: if they did not and both top leagues were normal size and with normal number of promoted and relegated teams… who knows, may be at least one of the three would have been relegated. Debutante Lokomotiv, which was promoted as team from the city of Gorky, now represented the same city, but its original name Nyzhny Novgorod – they finished 16th with 31 points, which was not bad for a newcomer.
Rostselmash (Rostov) was 15th with 31 points. Not clear yet, but in the long run this club was to be the number one club of the city – SKA (Rostov) not only suffered great decline already, but eventually they never recovered.
Kotaik (Abovyan, Armenia) – 14th with 33 points. Another debutante, Tiras (Tiraspol), which played under the name of Tekstilshchik (Tiraspol) in the previous season, ended 13th with 35 points.
And the last debutante, the confusing Dinamo (Sukhumi), which was and was not a Georgian team, thus, nominally representing Georgia, but was not part of Georgia… Abkhazia did not serve the purpose really, for Abkhazia was part of Georgia. Anyhow, they finished 12th with 36 points, thus going to confuse things in the next season as well. Apart from that, they were the strongest of the newly promoted clubs.
Geolog (Tyumen), another anomaly, for they came from the deep North, hardly a football place, but on the other hand, Tyumen had money from gas and oil production, thus, a team, ended 11th with 37 points. Fakel (Voronezh) was 10th with 37 points, Tavria (Simferopol, Ukraine) – 9th with 38 points.

Neftchi (Baku, Azerbaijan) was not a factor this season, most likely Nagorno-Karabakh war affected negatively football – they were 8th with 38 points. Nistru (Kishinev, Moldova) – 7th with 40 points, the ‘eternal’ Shinnik (Yaroslavl) was just as ever: solid, but unambitious – 6th with 46 points. Dinamo (Stavropol) – 5th with 46 points. They came close to promotion zone, but only that.
Lokomotiv (Moscow), just relegated from the top league, ended 4th with 47 points. Direct promotion was not up to them, but they reached at least the promotion/relegation play-off – thanks to the peculiarity of this season. They won the play-off and returned to top flight, which was great in the long run – lucky or not, the promotion started the steady climb of modest Lokomotiv to prominence. Lokomotiv also represented the new crop of leading coaches – Yury Semin was at their helm, soon to become one the best Russian coaches.
Metallurg (Zaporozhye, Ukraine) finished 3rd with 52 points. Were they to reach promotion under normal circumstances is mere speculation – they were involved in the three-team race for top positions, so who knows. The fact is, they were promoted – the greatest achievement in the club history. Nobody thought of them for years, for in the Ukrainian hierarchy they were lowly – a second division club, no more – but the new environment of lack of heavy-handed state control and professionalism, there were certain leveling based on money – if Metallurg had cash, it had equal opportunity with traditionally big clubs. For the moment, they were going up to play top-league football and it was great.
Pakhtakor (Tashkent, Uzbekistan) finished 2nd with 54 points and were once again promoted – seemingly, their meandering between First and Second Division had no end. They were the best scorers of the season with 80 goals – if anything, they scored goals. The photo may or may nor be from this season – the team left no picture of itself and this showcase of newcomers, most likely, at least presents interesting kit.
Spartak (Vladikavkaz) won the championship with 57 points: 24 wins, 9 ties, 5 losses, 73-30 goal-difference. The new winds restored the original name of the city – so far, it had been Ordzhonikidze. Those winds eventually changed the name of the club too, but they still were Spartak in 1990. The club had short appearance of First Division at the end of 1960s and now was promoted for a second time, hoping for longer stay – at least, that could have been an outside view, judging by the history of club: rather sedated Second Division existence. But now money talked. Not just money, but money too, were motivating their young talented coach Valery Gazzaev – he had ideas and the club had money to buy or keep the players he needed. Along with Semin, Gazzaev was the bright up and coming new crop of coaches, who led Russian football in the next two decades. At the moment, though, the great future was perhaps not even imagined – Spartak had wonderful season, got promoted, there was some promise, but no more.

USSR III Level

Third Level – Second League, Buffer Zones. Here a few well known names appeared – Soviet champion Zarya (Lugansk – formerly Voroshilovgrad), Soviet Cup winners SKA (Rostov) and Karpaty (Lvov – this club was just restored, so there is problem with historic record: technically, Galichina (Drogobych), which was just renamed and moved away from Lvov SKA-Karpaty, itself amalgamation of SKA and the original Karpaty, should have been inheriting the record and the Cup, but… football had flexible approach to history), some clubs with First Division records in the past, like Daugava (Riga) and Krylya Sovetov (Kuibyshev). Down on their luck for years already, especially SKA (Rostov) – they were unable to keep even third level place presently, finishing the season relegated further down. Apart from the sorry fate of these clubs, the biggest problem was accommodation: the original problem of old Second League was vast difference of quality, generally, a big geographic division between the West and the East. But, geographically, the whole country had to be covered: there were whole Asian republics which could not be ignored, no matter how weak their football was. To this was added the war between Armenia nd Azerbaijan – there was no way their clubs to be placed in the same league, no matter what geography dictated. The military conflict was even used as an original argument for leaving the Soviet championship by the Georgians – they claimed it was not safe for visiting teams to play not only Erevan and Baku, but also in Tbilisi and other Georgian towns, because of the close proximity of the war. The main result of the creation of the Buffer Zones was that they did not solve any problem: the European Zones were still much stronger than the Asian zone. The make up of the zones also created tensions because of the rapidly rising local nationalism – the Ukrainians most certainly preferred to have their own zone, but Zone West, mostly Ukrainian, included also Russian, Latvian, Belarussian, and Armenian teams. Zone Center, which technically should have been only Russian, included the Azerbaijani teams as well, not only increasing travel distances, but bringing the Russian teams dangerously close to active war zone. Zone East was sour spot by definition – it was made by traditionally weak Far East Russian team and weaker still teams from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tadjikistan. The distances in this zone were great and given the low level of the teams, travel even looked just meaningless expense for clubs short of cash to begin with. Corruption was seemingly a normal way of existence over there – nothing became official, but players with experience in the this realm darkly claimed that in Asia the home team wins ever, a fact of life, not of playing. As for the championship, like the 4th level, 3rd level, having the bulk of non-russian teams, was due to disintegration, because of the emerging of independent states. As for the season, it completed.
Zone East – two Uzbek teams finished at the top: Novbahor (Namangan) was 2nd with 58 points, and Neftyanik (Fergana) was champion with 64 points. Promoted to Second Division, which was great success for both teams. At the bottom of the table was also two Uzbek teams – Spartak (Andizhan) was lst with measly 13 points, and Zarafshan (Navoi) was 21st with 33 points. The other two relegated teams were Irtysh (Omsk, Russia), 20th, and Kaysar (just renamed from Meliorator, Kzil-Orda), 19th.
Zone Center – 20 Russian teams and 2 from Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijanis did quite well: Goyazan (Kazakh) ended 11th , Kyapaz (Gyanja) – 5th. Neither was promoted, of course, and perhaps that was best in terms of future complications with separatism. Relegated included Volgar (Astrakhan), last with 22 points, Zarya (Kaluga), 21st,
SKA (Rostov) – just relegated from Second Division, they were going further down to 4th level. 20th in the final table.
And the last relegated was Mashuk (Pyatigorsk), 19th. Up the table were various clubs which eventually became top-tier Russian clubs, but nothing suggested such elevation yet – Sokol (Saratov), Terek (Grozny), to name but two, were still ordinary third level clubs as they were for years. Krylya Sovetov (Kuibyshev) was unable to climb back at least to Second Division once again. They will remain in history as the first Soviet club to import a foreign player, but the Bulgarian veteran defender Tenyo Minchev did not help much in the previous season and was no longer with the team. Krylya Sovetov finished 3rd with 49 points. Tekstilshcik (Kamyshin) was second with 52 points, thus earning promotion. UralMash (Sverdlovsk) won the championship with 59 points – they were climbing back to Second Division, which was their traditional level.
Zone West. Mostly Ukrainian league, completed with few teams from elsewhere. The ‘elsewhere’ made 3 of the 4 relegated teams: Shirak (Leininakan, Armenia) was last, Baltika (Kaliningrad, Russia) was 21st, Iskra (Smolensk, Russia) – 19th, and tucked in 20th place was the only relegated team from Ukraine – Zakarpatye (Uzhgorod). The rest of the ‘elsewhere’ was not impressive, but good for a second season at this new level: Lori (Kirovakan, Armenia) – 18th, Start (Ulyanovsk) – 16th, Khimik (Grodno, Belarus) – 15th, Dnepr (Mogilyov, Belarus) – 13th, Zarya (Beltsy, Moldova) – 11th,
Dinamo (Brest, Belarus) – 9th, and Spartak (Nalchik, Russia) – 8th. The last non-ukrainian club, however, did very well.
From the Ukrainian clubs some were still weak, like Vorskla (Poltava), 12th. The complicated transition of football in Lvov could not excel either – former SKA-Karpaty, now under different name and moved to different city, suffered by relocation, renaming, and lost support from the Soviet Army, for it was a military club in its SKA-Karpaty incarnation. Now it was Galichina (Drogobych), pretty much a new club with new players, and managed to finish only 14th – as SKA-Karpaty, they were just relegated from Second Division. The new or restored Karpaty (Lvov) perhaps was helped by former SKA-Karpaty players joining the club they wanted to play for; by administrators eager to help their ‘real’ club after years of military yoke; by enthusiastic fans, who never accepted and boycotted SKA-Karpaty, but even fueled by nationalism, the club was starting from scratch and was still shaky for better things – Karpaty finished 3rd at the end. Zarya (Lugansk – formerly Voroshilovgrad) was a sorry case similar to that of SKA (Rostov) – they were champions of USSR once upon a time, but after that a slow slump started, which never ended. So, now they were in third level and not very good even there: 7th. Well, at least they were not relegated to 4th level like SKA (Rostov), but recovery of former strength was not in the books either. SKA (Odessa) never played top-league football like Zarya, but Second Division was familiar ground to them – now firmly third-tier, relatively strong for it, but no more – 6th.
Niva (Vinitza) finished 5th confirming again their solid belonging to third level football no matter what kind or reorganizations may happen.
Similar club finished 4th – Niva (Ternopol). That was mostly the regular face of Ukrainian football – many solid third-tier teams, which perhaps could even play Second Division football, but generally making competitive third-level league, to a point preventing each other from promotion and in the same time providing fuel for criticism of the vast level – here they were, strong and competitive, along with some terrible weaklings from the East, having no chance for going up, but at least one of the Asian teams can go up. Anyhow, going up was enjoyed by the top two teams – and here it was again: only one of them was Ukrainian.

Daugava (Riga, Latvia) finished 2nd with 56 points, beating Karpaty (Lvov) by a point. They were just relegated from Second Division, but managed to climb back right away. In, by 1990, very distant past Daugava played top-league football, then plummeted into oblivion. Latvia was hardly fertile football soil, so nothing unusual. Recently, however, Daugava emerged from obscurity, somewhat following the example of the their Lithuanian neighbors. They climbed back to Second Division and played well for awhile, at one point even looking like going to First Division. It was short revival, they were relegated again, but still had strong enough squad and managed to get promotion immediately after relegation. Promotion for the moment, for Latvia was declaring independence.
Bukovina (Chernovtzy) won the championship with 58 points. Well, from Ukrainian standpoint their victory only confirmed the leading position of Ukrainian football. From local standpoint it was a triumph – Bukovina never played Second Division football so far. Everything else is speculation and circumstances: weakened opposition, general turmoil, perhaps having some money to attract better players. This season was great. The future unknown…

USSR IV Level

USSR was 2nd in the UEFA ranking, but the place did not correspond to reality: too many problems were at hand. The Soviet Empire was reaching collapse and its football too. Growing nationalism and separatism, political and economic problems, the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabach (still a violent problem to this very day) marked the time and football added its own problems and tensions. They were many… the central one was the conversion to professional football with its political side – who and how should run it. Export of players was a big issue – the clubs preferred they to contract transfers instead of the state Sport Committee. The players were eager to go abroad, however, wanting better deals for themselves. The exodus was massive and in short time Soviet players went to play not just to the familiar top European leagues, but to lower divisions, smaller countries and exotic destinations from which the Europeans usually imported players, not exporting. Just to give and idea: apart from Germany, Italy, France, England, Soviet players went to Finland, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, Israel, South Korea, Morocco. Inside the USSR players also moved in larger numbers than ever, joining not stronger teams, but those which paid better. At the top of it the championship suffered and was on the verge of disintegration: the program of the First Division was made and published in January 1990, it included 16 teams. Then the Georgian Federation decided to run its own championship and Dinamo (Tbilisi) and Guria (Lanchkhuti) abandoned the Soviet league. The championship started with 14 teams, but Lithuania declared independence and thus after the first round Zalgiris (Vilnius) withdrew – the championship started with 14 teams and ended with 13. The Second Division was also reduced from 22 to 20 teams, because of the Georgian withdrawal – Torpedo (Kutaisi) and Dinamo (Batoumi) left, but to make things even more complicated Abkhazia rebelled against Georgia, it Federation separated from the the Georgian and decided to run its own championship as far as Georgia was concerned, but remain in the Soviet system. The result was that one technically Georgian team played in the Second Division: Dinamo (Sukhumi). They were just promoted to Second Division and the political turbulence put them in very difficult position: the club stayed in the Soviet championship, but most of its players were Georgians and left the club and just days before the beginning of the championship the club had to find players. At least the program of the Second Division was made late enough, so it was made for 20 teams, not 22 and unlike the top league there were no gaps in teams schedules because there was no longer opponent for the round.
The lower tier was entirely reorganized and here the new political situation somewhat helped calls for structural reforms. Third Division was a problem for some time already: about 160 teams played in it, divided into 9 Zones. In general, quality was the problem: for years Third Division contributed little to betterment of football on one hand and it was found very unequal in itself on the other hand. There were clubs considered strong enough to play Second Division, but they were mostly concentrated in Ukraine and European Russia, thus playing in same zone against each other without a chance for more than one to go up. In the same time Asiatic republics and Russian Far East was very weak. Vast distances were another problem. So, calls for reforms existed – reduce Third Division to make it more competitive and meaningful and reduce the costs for, generally, poor clubs. Now the reform was made, partly spurred by the political situation: in the Soviet system third level was called Second League (following the Premier League and First League – top and second levels) and the name was preserved, but effectively third and forth levels were created: the new third level was Buffer Zones – West, Center, East, each having 22 teams. Bellow the Buffer Zones was what was called Second League – 6 zones, named after the participating republics, although some were inevitably mixed: Zone I (Ukraine), Zone II (Armenia), Zone III (Azerbaijan), Zone IV (Russian Federation), Zone V (Russian Federation), Zone VI (Russian Federation). As the names suggest, politics played considerable role here… it is hard to imagine small Armenia and Azerbaijan having so many clubs for separate league, but Kazakhstan and Belarus not so, but… the war over Nagorno-Karabakh not only prohibited teams form both sides to be placed in one zone, as geography suggest, but also seemingly made both republics to show strength by claiming big football – and thus the Armenian zone had 22 teams and Azerbaijan ‘bested’ Armenia with 24 teams. Laughable, but these 2 zones were the largest in the third level. As for promotion and relegation, it was theoretically simple structure: the top 2 teams in the zones except the Armenian and Azerbaijani, where 1 team was promoted were moving up to the Buffer Zones – 10 teams in total. The last 4 teams in every Buffer Zone were relegated down. So far, so good… up the pyramid, however, numbers had to made up, because of sudden reductions for this season: Second Division had to go back to 22 teams and First Division – back to 16. Thus, there was no direct relegation for the top league this season – the last was going to promotion/relegation play-off against the 4th in the Second Division. The top 3 teams in the Second Division were directly promoted. So, Second Division starting with 20 teams, after promotion of 3 teams and none directly relegated was left to 17. To restore 22-team league only one team – the last in the final table – was to be relegated. 16 teams remained – plus 6 promoted from the Buffer Zones, to make 22 teams for 1991. That is, the top 2 teams in every Buffer Zone were directly promoted up this season.
Since the complete disintegration USSR was on its way, the 1990 structure was not going to last , especially the third and forth tier, but the 1990 season was like that, with additional changes of city and club names, of which perhaps most important were two: the move and renaming of locally hated in Lvov amalgamation SKA-Karpaty to the city of Drogobych under the name Galichina. In the same time ‘original’ Karpaty was restored in Lvov. The second was the renaming of tiny and insignificant Moscow club Krasnaya Presnya to Asmaral. Asmaral became the first foreign-owned club in Russia and played a prominent role in Russian football in the next few years. For the moment, though, former Galichina (former SKA-Karpaty) and the restored Karpaty were in Buffer Zones, third level, and Asmaral – in the Second League, forth level. Complicated all that, but such were the times.
Second League – forth level. 116 teams in 6 zones – naturally, most teams were Russian, but that is in total, for 3 zones were nominally Russian zone. They had 17 teams each, so, just as leagues, those 3 zones were the smallest. Ukraine had 19-team zone, Armenia – 22, and Azerbaijan was the largest with 24 teams. The Russian and the Ukrainian zones run normal league championships, but the size of the largest zones demanded different formula and both were run the same way: in the first stage the league was divided in 2 groups, then the top 6 in each group went to the second stage to play for 1-12 places and the rest played for the bottom half of the final table. In the so-called Russian zones were included also the few clubs from republics other than Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Naturally, most 4th level clubs do not ring a bell, so only few bits of information will be given here:
Perhaps Kolos (Nikopol) was the best known name among all teams in the 4th level – now they were 10th in Zone I (Ukraine). Very likely this zone was the strongest and included most clubs with Second Division experience.

SKA (Kiev) was 11th in the same zone,
Chaika (Sevastopol) was 13th.
But those ended in lower part of the table. Sudostroitel (Nikolaev) was 2nd, besting Avangard (Rovno) on goal-difference, and Torpedo (Zaporozhye) won the championship.
Zone II – the Armernian zone had 1 promotional spot. The winner of their clearly unreasonably large zone was the second team of Ararat (Erevan) – and Ararat-2 was promoted to third level. If one compares the bloated Armenian zone of 1990 to contemporary Armenian top league will see no resemblance – neither in the number of clubs, nor in the names. Most clubs of 1990 simply do not exist today.
Zone III was similar – few of the 1990 Azerbaijani clubs exist today and almost none under the old. Karabagh (Agdam) won the championship and was was promoted – and it is also practically the only club which still exists under its 1990 name today.
Zone IV – the only entirely Russian zone, consisting mostly of Southern and Caucasian clubs. Later two clubs will become quite strong and even playing top league Russian football, but in 1990 they were hardly heard of lowly 4th level clubs – Uralan (Elista) and Dinamo (Makhachkala). Others remained anonymous, like
Shaktyor (Shakhty), which finished 14th.
APK (Azov) – just renamed from Luch – finished 2nd with 50 points, bested by Torpedo (Taganrog) with 51. Both teams were promoted to the Buffer Zones.
Zone V – two non-Russian clubs played here: GomSelMash (Gomel, Belarus) and Tigina (Bender, Moldova). The Belarussians finished 7th, but the Moldovans ended 2nd and earned promotion up. The champion here was Asmaral (Moscow), naturally, promoted. Eventually, few other clubs became well-known – like Saturn (Ramenskoe) – but that will be in Russian, not Soviet football.
Zone VI – again, few non-Russian clubs played here: two Latvian and one from Belarus.

Olimpia (Liepaja, Latvia) ended 7th.
RAF (Jelgava, Latvia) did better than their countrymen – they finished 4th. Did not matter much anyway – Latvia declared independence and RAF and Olimpia were not going to play in Soviet-Russian championship after 1990, but unlike the Lithuanians, the Latvian teams at least started and finished this season.
The team from Belarus – KIM (Vitebsk) finished 2nd and was promoted. Volga (Tver) won the championship and was promoted. Tver was known until this year as Kalinin, but restored its original name. The team from Liepaja changed its name from Zvejnieks to Olimpia, but this matters little – with time, Latvian clubs changed names often.
Well, at the end of the 1990 season 10 teams were promoted from forth level, but that’s just for the record. Further political changes rendered promotions quite meaningless.

Italy the Cup

The Cup final opposed old enemies: Juventus vs Milan. In Turin, Milan managed scoreless tie and entertained high hopes for winning the trophy. However, it was not to be – to the shame of Milan, they lost the second leg at home 0-1.
Juventus won the Cup.
Milan, in all its splendor and the top club in the world, failed to win anything in Italy this season. They conquered Europe, conquered the World, but not Italy – and that was not pleasing at all for both Berlusconi and the fans.
Juventus, captained by goalkeeper Tacconi this season, was not much in the championship, but at least won the Cup. The squad was not as great as hoped to be – the Soviet imports, particularly Zavarov, were disappointing, a mistake really, and Zavarov lost his place in the starting eleven first and at the end of the season was transferred. A good, but hardly exceptional team, obviously lacking a great figure and a leader. Yet, Juventus managed to European Cup and the Italian Cup, so all was not too bad… but bad enough Dino Zoff to be out – new coach and new players were needed even with 2 cups won. As for the record – it was the 8th Italian Cup for Juventus.