To help mark UEFA's Jubilee in 2004, each national association was asked to nominate its most outstanding player of the past 50 years. Kazakhstan chose Sergey Kvochkin as their Golden Player.
Sergey Kvochkin was born in Ust-Kamenogorsk where winters are bitterly cold and summers stiflingly hot. It was perhaps no surprise then that the 12th child in the family should have spent most of his time outdoors playing football in summer and ice hockey in winter. Though he never dreamed of becoming a professional, he earned a reputation during his army service days when, called up to the Pavlodar district Soldiers' XI, he scored twice in a league decider. FC Kairat Almaty scouts spotted him and so his career began.
At first he continued to play ice hockey too, like many other players of the time, but after Kairat gained promotion to the Soviet first division he had to make a choice. On 9 May 1960, the 21-year-old scored his and Kairat's first goal in the top flight against FC Lokomotiv Moskva, beating legendary goalkeeper Vladimir Maslachenko after 25 minutes. The next year he became a real threat to opposition defences, netting 15 goals in 24 league appearances.
Kvochkin had now caught the eye of the strongest teams in the USSR and he joined FC Dynamo Kyiv temporarily in 1962 to go on a friendly tour to South America. It was a trip that provided one unforgettable memory: he came off the bench in front of 200,000 at the Maracanã Stadium and scored the only goal against Fluminense FC. "The first thing that amazed me was the size of the pitch," he recalled later. "It was much bigger than we were used to.
"Valeriy Lobanovskiy even went to measure it. And the grass was so slippery I strained my leg during the warm-up, but the doctor said I was OK to play. I started on the bench and the Brazilians could have scored three times in the first half but our goalkeeper Sergei Kotrikadze was superb. I came on after the restart and broke the deadlock after Gena Logofet found space on the flank and crossed. I controlled with my chest and volleyed the ball home. The stadium sank into silence. I had a similar effort later in Chile but it hit the post."
Kvochkin decided to stay at Kairat subsequently and went on to score 61 goals in 232 matches for the most famous Kazakh club. He held their scoring record until 1985 when he was surpassed by Yevstafi Pekhlevanidi. After ten years at Kairat, Kvochkin moved to his home-town team, FC Vostok Ust-Kamenogorsk, for one more season before he stopped playing. He then began a coaching career that took in various teams in Kazakhstan before he moved back to Almaty. "Every time I returned home I saw my daughter running around, but I realised I did not see her growing up," Kvochkin said.
In the mid-80s he began coaching youngsters and many of his Almaty 'pupils' went on to become professionals. Kvochin, who continued coaching after reaching retirement age, lived modestly; he did not own a car and used public transport to get around. On 29 December 2007, aged 69, he was on his way to a bus stop to make the journey to the youth academy where he was working when he collapsed. He suffered a heart attack and died later in a cardiology unit without regaining consciousness.
"I remember one conversation with Sergey Prokopievich," says prominent Kazakh coach Dmitry Ogay. "I took a break and wanted to rest from football. I met Kvochkin at a football match. We chatted a bit and then he said one thing I would remember for all my life. 'Dima, you will be back in football, for sure, because we don't work for ourselves, we work for them,' he said, pointing to the children playing with a ball. He was 100% right."
Last updated: 14 February 2011
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