Lev Yashin and burning passion for Soviet links with Brazil feature strongly in the Pele Museum in Lugansk.
It has a host of fascinating Soviet football artefacts collected by its owner Nikolai Khudobin.
Lev Yashin, the most famous Russian footballer ever, is regarded as maybe the best goalkeeper who ever played.
He won the Ballon d’Or in 1963 and played 78 games for the USSR. And some valuable items belonging to him are at the museum.
The ‘Black Spider’ earned his nickname for having an all-black kit and appearing to possess eight arms when between the sticks.
He was the Soviet Union keeper in three World Cups – 1958, 1962 and 1966 and won a gold medal in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.
Wikipedia says he saved 171 penalty kicks in his time – he played 78 internationals and nearly 350 games for Dynamo Moscow.
He died in 1990, aged 60.
Lugansk used to be known as Voroshilovgrad – Stalin renamed the city after one of his cronies so Zorya bore that name from 1935 to 1956 or so and then from 1970 to 1990.
Under that name they won the old Soviet League in 1972.
The stadium is an old style, no-frills Soviet affair with an austere elegance, not far from the centre.
Wikipedia states Lenin ordered it to be constructed and it was built in 1922.
Their European Cup adventures in 1972 saw them beat Cypriots Apoel Nicosia in the first round and lose to Czechs Spartak Trnava in the second round.
The museum has a programme from the 1975 cup final when they met the 1973 champions – Armenian side Ararat Yerevan.
Zorya reached the Soviet Cup final two years in a row. In 1974 they lost 3-0 to fellow Ukrainians Dynamo Kyiv.
And in 1975 they were beaten 2-1 by Armenian side Ararat Yerevan in Moscow on August 9, in front of 70,000. This was played at the Central Lenin stadium in Moscow, now called the Luzhniki.
In the Ukrainian Premier League they’ve featured in 12 of its 22 seasons with a best placing of tenth, last season.
Rio side Fluminense visit Lugansk in 1963
Outside the museum, on the corner of the road which leads to the city centre, a rather incongruous monolith flags up the museum’s existence.
The Brazilians played a friendly – remember this is the old communist-era Soviet Union, so the visit to one of the less important Soviet cities, in a period when contact with foreigners was discouraged, would have been quite an occasion.
I don’t understand a word, but there is this YouTube footage of the match.
This caught they eye and stems from an era when brightly coloured items would have been few and far between.
From what I could understand from Pele Museum owner Nikolai, this trophy was contested in a special game between Zorya and a side from Stakhanov.
Stakhanov is a mining town not far away from Lugansk and is named after a miner who was lauded by the communist for being a great digger of coal. The word ‘Stakhanovite’ – meaning ‘prodigious worker’ derives from this miner.
Selecao Mineira v Russia, 1965
This marks what looks like a friendly played between Russia and a team representing sides in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in the year the Mineirao was opened.
The stadium was the second-biggest in Brazil after the Maracana at the time.
It opened in September 1965 and this match was played on November 24.