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Blokhin, Ukraine's main man

Published: Thursday 3 February 2011, 9.30CET
The son of a Soviet sprinter, Oleh Blokhin had a glittering career with FC Dynamo Kyiv and the USSR and later led Ukraine on to the world stage.
by Igor Linnyk
Blokhin, Ukraine's main man
Oleh Blokhin in action for the Soviet Union ©Getty Images
Published: Thursday 3 February 2011, 9.30CET

Blokhin, Ukraine's main man

The son of a Soviet sprinter, Oleh Blokhin had a glittering career with FC Dynamo Kyiv and the USSR and later led Ukraine on to the world stage.

To help mark UEFA's Jubilee in 2004, each national association was asked to nominate its most outstanding player of the past 50 years. Ukraine chose Oleh Blokhin as their Golden Player.

Despite the considerable footballing success that came his way, Oleh Blokhin had initially appeared destined for another sporting field. Blokhin's mother was Yekterina Adamenko, a famous Soviet sprinter who wanted her son to follow her into a career in track and field, while Valeri Borzov, winner of the 100m at the 1972 Olympic Games, also encouraged the young Blokhin to choose athletics after seeing him run that distance in 10.8 seconds and record a 6.5m effort in the long jump.

Blokhin, however, opted to follow his own path and joined FC Dynamo Kyiv, quickly progressing to the club's reserve side before winning a regular role in the first team. He went on to help the Ukrainian club land seven Soviet league titles as well as lifting the Soviet Cup five times between 1974 and 1987.

Blokhin also played an integral role in Dynamo's victories in the 1974/75 and 1985/86 UEFA Cup Winners' Cups, scoring in the final on each occasion as Ferencvárosi TC and then Club Atlético de Madrid succumbed 3-0. Blokhin made his mark on the UEFA Super Cup too, scoring all three goals as Dynamo defeated European champions FC Bayern München over two legs in the 1975 event. He decided the first match in Munich with a powerful burst from the halfway line – through a Bayern defence that included the legendary Franz Beckenbauer – and finished for a goal that brought him continental acclaim.

His rapid rise was reflected at international level. Having played for the Soviet Union at various age levels and helped the team to the 1972 European Under-23 Championship final, he stepped up to the senior side and won bronze medals at the Olympic Games in 1972 and 1976. He appeared, and scored, in the FIFA World Cup finals in 1982 and 1986 and was the first Soviet footballer to earn 100 caps, with an international record of 42 goals in 112 games that remains unsurpassed.

Blokhin set many other records in Soviet football, playing 432 league games and netting 211 goals – more than anybody else – in addition to finishing as the league's top scorer on five occasions. He was voted the USSR's best player by the Soviet press between 1973 and 1975 – the same year he collected the Ballon d'Or.

A versatile striker, Blokhin played at the top level for almost 20 years and worked hard for his team-mates, always battling for chances and causing defences ceaseless problems. Despite a somewhat difficult temper that caused tensions with some of his coaches, Blokhin was held in high regard everywhere he played.

A year after Dynamo's second triumph in the Cup Winners' Cup, Blokhin became one of the first Soviet sportsmen to move abroad, joining Austrian second division side SK Vorwärts Steyr. His farewell game – against a world XI – was held in Kiev in 1988, although he postponed his retirement for one more year by playing in Cyprus with Aris Limassol FC, before turning his attention to coaching.

Blokhin spent over a decade coaching in Greece, starting at Olympiacos FC whom he guided to the Greek Cup in 1992. He also had spells with PAOK FC, Ionikos FC and AEK Athens FC prior to taking charge of the Ukraine national team in October 2003 with the ambition of taking his country to the World Cup finals for the very first time.

He achieved that feat and led Ukraine to the quarter-finals on their World Cup debut – a feat that earned him the Order of Prince Yaroslav from Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko. After leaving the Ukraine post, Blokhin – who has served in the Ukrainian parliament – had short spells as coach at FC Moskva and sporting director at FC Chornomorets Odesa but is presently promoting his country's cause as an ambassador for UEFA EURO 2012.

Last updated: 4 February 2011

Last updated: 22/03/11 22.29CET

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