Legendary goalkeeper Yashin dies

MOSCOW -- Lev Yashin, regarded by many as the greatest goaltender in modern soccer history, died Wednesday of stomach cancer, the official Tass news agency said. He was 60.

Yashin played in four World Cup finals in 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970, during his 15 years of international competition for the Soviet Union.


With Yashin in goal, the Soviets won the Olympic gold in 1956 and the European Cup in 1960.

He earned the nickname 'the Black Spider' in South America because of the black outfit he always wore. Portuguese soccer great Eisebio called him 'the peerless goalkeeper of the century.'

Yashin was as popular among opponents as he was formidible in goal. A galaxy of soccer greats attended his final match in 1972. Last year, they assembled again, although retired, for another farewell to Yashin.

His friends included soccer greats Pele of Brazil, Eisebio of Portugal, and Franz Beckenbauer of West Germany.

Yashin was the only goalie to be named European player of the year, an award he earned in 1963. After his retirement in 1972, Yashin held several posts in the Soviet sports commitee.


Yashin became a goaltender almost by accident. He began his career as an ice hockey goalie, but when the goalkeeper of the Dinamo soccer squad fell ill in 1953, Coach Arkady Cherenyshev asked Yashin to substitute.

Yashin never left the Dinamo goal after that even though he replaced another great goalie, Alexei Homich.

In all, Yashin played 291 games for Dinamo, leading it to six national titles and two European Cup trophies.

Yashin, a ruggedly built man, went to work in his early teens during World War II because all able-bodied men were at the front. He began his career playing on his plant's team.

In the early 1980s, he lost a leg apparently to the cancer that was eating away at his powerful body, but he continued traveling the world, promoting soccer.

His last trip abroad took him to Israel where he was fitted with an artificial leg. All the time he kept his good humor, smiling and joking while giving interviews.

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