Lev Ivanovich Yashin (Russian: Лев Ива́нович Я́шин) (October 22, 1929 – March 20, 1990) was a Soviet soccer goalkeeper, arguably the best ever in the sport.
He was born in Moscow in a family of industrial workers. Still twelve years old in summer of 1942, during the World War II, he started to work as the helper at metal workshops.
Yashin played his entire career for Dinamo Moscow sports club, from 1949 to 1971, winning the football (soccer) championship of the USSR five times and the Soviet Cup three times. He also won a USSR ice-hockey championship (1953) as a goalkeeper for his club after three disastrous trial-up attempts to get his place in the starting line-up of the main soccer team. Yashin’s club team-mate, rival and mentor was ‘Tiger’ Khomich, the keeper of the Soviet national team, who had become famous for his role in Dinamo Moscow’s British tour.
In 1954, Yashin was finally called up to the national team (78 caps for his country), with which he would win the titles at the 1956 Summer Olympics and the 1960 European Championships. As a member of the USSR team he played in three World Cup finals (1958, 1962 and 1966). Always ready to give a piece of advice to his comrades, he even made his fourth trip to the World Cup finals in 1970 as the third-choice back-up and an aide. Yashin is credited for four clean sheets out of 13 games played in WC finals. In 1971 in Moscow he played his last match for Dinamo Moscow against European stars.
One of his best performances was the 1963 FA Centenary match when he appeared in the ‘Rest of the World XI’ against England at Wembley Stadium and made a number of the breathtaking and almost unbelievable saves. Known all over the world as the ‘Black Panther’ for his distinctive all-black outfit, acrobatic saves and agility, he was feared by his opponents who also called him “Black Spider” and “Black Octopus” because of his very long hands. Sometimes Yashin was wearing a big flat-top-over-the-visor cloth cap of overburnt-red-brick color.
Lev Yashin is the only goalkeeper ever to win the European Footballer of the Year Award (1963).
For his outstanding service to the people and for his country he was awarded Order of Lenin (1967), the highest award of the USSR. Lev Yashin’s FIFA testimonial match was held at the Lenin Stadium in Moscow with 100,000 fans attending, and a host galaxy of stars and superstars, including Pelé, Eusebio and Franz Beckenbauer. For some time he coached minor league and youth soccer teams in Finland. Bronze statue of Lev Yashin was erected at Dinamo Central Stadium in Moscow. 2000 FIFA polls placed Yashin in the “Century XI” team, and also named him ‘World – Keeper of the Century’ ahead of Gordon Banks.
Lev Yashin died in 1990 of complications caused by an earlier amputation of one of his legs following a knee injury.
He is remembered as a brilliant goalkeeper and a true sportsman. FIFA established Lev Yashin Award for the best goalkeeper of the World Cup finals.
‘”What kind of a goalkeeper is the one who is not tormented by the goal he has allowed? He must be tormented! And if he is calm, that means the end. No matter what he had in the past, he has no future.”
812 career games played,
326 games played for Dinamo Moscow main line-up (soccer team)
75 FIFA recognized caps for the USSR national team (70 goals conceded)
13 caps at the World Cup finals (4 clean sheets)
2 FIFA ‘Rest of the World XI’ appearances (1963-vs England,1968- vs Brazil)
FIFA testimonial match (1971)
270 career clean sheets (some Russian web sources put it at 207)
150 career penalty kick saves (the latter still not confirmed officially)
1 gold medal for the USSR ice-hockey championship
5 gold, 5 silver, 1 bronze medals for the USSR championships (soccer)
3 times USSR Cup winner
1 Olympic gold medal
1 gold medal as the European Cup (Championship) winner
1 silver medal as the European Cup (Championship) runner-up
The Best European Footballer of the Year “Golden Ball” Award (1963)
4th place in the World Cup finals (1966)
3 times The Best Goalkeeper of the USSR (1960,1963,1966)
22 official seasons with the same club (1950-1970)
Order of Lenin (1967)
Olympic Order (1986)
FIFA Golden Order for Merits (1988)
Golden medal of ‘Hammer and Sickle’ (star) of Hero of Socialist Labor with Order of Lenin (equals to military award of Hero of the USSR) (1989)
FIFA ‘World-Keeper of the Century’ title and FIFA ‘Century XI’ team membership (2000)