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Russia rise to new order

Published: Tuesday 5 January 2010, 14.38CET
Despite a shifting political landscape, Russian football still makes a global impact.
Russia rise to new order
Igor Netto with the Henri Delaunay trophy following the Soviet Union's defeat of Yugoslavia in the 1960 European Championship final ©UEFA.com
Published: Tuesday 5 January 2010, 14.38CET

Russia rise to new order

Despite a shifting political landscape, Russian football still makes a global impact.

The Football Union of Russia (RFS) is one of the associations that emerged as a separate entity following the dissolution of the USSR. Both before and after these political changes, however, Russian footballers and administrators have left their mark on the game.

The All-Russia Football Union (VFS) was founded on 6 January 1912 in St Petersburg by representatives of the football leagues. The VFS promptly joined FIFA on 17 July, prefacing Russia's participation in that year's Olympic soccer tournament. The VFS existed for five years, presiding over two Russian championships contested by teams of top players from the major cities. The St Petersburg side won the 1912 title, with Odessa the next victors. The 1914 season was cut short by the outbreak of World War One.

Following the 1917 revolution, competitive football did not resume until 1922 when a team representing Moscow proceeded to win the inaugural USSR championship of 1923. However, because the old sides of the pre-war era had disappeared, it took until the 1930s for club football to be revived properly. Even the national team's debut, against Turkish opponents, had to wait until August 1931. Finally though, in 1936, a first USSR club championship was organised under the auspices of the governing body for all sport, the All-Union Supreme Council for Physical Culture.

A governing body solely for Russian football was reintroduced in 1935 as the football section of the Sports Ministry undertook to centralise all soccer-related activity in the country. This functioned until 1959 when the Football Federation of the USSR (FFUSSR) was born as an independent body, before being incorporated into the Sports Ministry five years later.

Political developments in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to the collapse of the USSR and consequently to the formation of new independent states and football federations. In February 1992 the RFS was formed, assuming the duties and functions of the former FFUSSR.

With the USSR national side having qualified for the 1992 UEFA European Championship, it was decided that a representative team of the CIS Association of Football Federations would play in Sweden as the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States). However, Russia subsequently stood alone when competing at EURO '96 in England and UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal. Under the tutelage of Guus Hiddink, an eye-catching team then advanced to the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland.

USSR sides had left an earlier impression on the world and European stages. The Soviet Union, which participated at seven FIFA World Cups, peaking with fourth place at the 1966 tournament in England, were the first European champions, lifting the Henri Delaunay Cup in 1960 after beating Yugoslavia 2-1 in the Paris final. Olympic gold medals from 1956 and 1988 sandwiched that triumph. The senior team were also runners-up at EURO '88 and there were numerous victories at youth level, including UEFA European Under-21 Championship titles in 1980 and 1990, and the U23 crown in 1976.

On the club front, Russian sides have twice captured the UEFA Cup. PFC CSKA Moskva were first in 2005, defeating Sporting Clube de Portugal, before FC Zenit emulated them by brushing off Rangers FC in 2008. Zenit also became the first Russian UEFA Super Cup winners. In Soviet times, Ukrainian outfit FC Dynamo Kyiv landed the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1975 and 1986, plus the UEFA Super Cup in 1976; Georgia's FC Dinamo Tbilisi collected the Cup Winners' Cup in 1981.

Russia's football story has been further embellished by great players. Heading any roll of honour are three European Footballers of the Year – Lev Yashin (Ballon d'Or winner 1963), Oleh Blokhin (1975), Igor Belanov (1986) – and Rinat Dasaev who was named the world's leading goalkeeper in 1988. A stellar future is also in prospect after Russia was anointed as host nation of the 2018 World Cup following a decision by FIFA's Executive Committee in December 2010.

Last updated: 11/05/14 6.14CET

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