Famed for always wearing a distinctive all-black strip when playing, The late and great Lev Yashin is the best goalkeeper of all time, rivalled only by Gordon Banks.
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.
A natural all round sportsman Yashin nearly gave up football in favour of ice-hockey (he won the Soviet title in 1953) after playing second-fiddle to Alexei 'Tiger' Khomich at Dynamo Moscow but established himself as first choice soon after. Yashin once famously said “The joy of seeing Yuri Gagarin flying in space is only superseded by the joy of a good penalty save.”
His fantastic performances earned him 75 caps for the Soviet Union winning the 1956 Olympic gold and the 1960 European championship as well as finishing third in the 1966 World Cup finals and winning the 1963 European player of the year award. Domestically, he only ever played for one club (Dynamo Moscow) where he won five league championships and three Cup titles. A Bronze statue of Lev Yashin was erected at Dinamo Central Stadium in Moscow in recognition of his service to the club.
In 1963 Lev Yahsin was voted European Footballer of the Year and remains the only goalkeeper to have ever won the title. He was award the Order of Lenin in 1967 before retiring at the age of 41 in 1971 having kept a record 270 clean sheets. 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, including Pelé, Eusebio and Franz Beckenbauer.
He possessed agility, shot-stopping and anticipation absolutely unparalleled by any other goalkeeper and it is claimed that he saved over 150 penalties during his career. Yashin was one of the first goalkeepers to command his entire penalty area and one of the first to do away with catching the ball in favour of punching or kicking. Other novel practices he developed were the quick throw of the ball to begin a counterattack, coming out of the penalty area to anticipate danger, and the command and organization of the defenders all practices that are now common among goalkeepers.
In 1994, FIFA established the Lev Yashin Award for the best goalkeeper at the World Cup finals. FIFA polls named Yashin as the sole goalkeeper in World Team of the 20th Century. World Soccer Magazine named him in their The 100 Greatest Players of the 20th Century. Many commentators still consider Yashin the best keeper in the history of football.
For some time he coached minor league and youth soccer teams in Finland. He died in 1990 of complications caused by an amputation of one of his legs following a knee injury in 1986.