Valeriy Lobanovskyi, the face of Ukraine football
Valeriy Lobanovskyi, the God and Father of Ukraine football was the brain behind the prosperity of Ukrainian club Dinamo Kiev and spreading of football in the whole Soviet Union(now Russia).
He was the first coach to teach the football world that players which form nucleus of one club can create the nucleus of national team, a tactics which was later used by coaches like Vicente Del Bosque, Antonio Conte etc. Under his spell Dinamo Kiev enjoyed their golden period winning 2 European cup winners cup and 1 European super cup and the nucleus of this Dinamo Kiev team also formed the core of the the Soviet Union team in 1986 World cup.
Lobanovskyi fused tremendous hard work with free-flowing football. He followed this principle-1% talent and 99% hardwork. He was well-known for turning players with unpromising raw materials to world-class player. He was a coach who would achieve his vision at any cost even if it meant making his players work like ass. His ideals made Dinamo Kiev a symbol of prestige not only in Soviet Union but also throughout Europe. He transferred these ideals in the Soviet Union national team and took them to semi-final of 1976 Summer Olympics and helped them in winning the bronze medal. He also took Soviet Union to 1988 Euro cup final but lost to Netherlands. He believed in team-game and gave his team success through almost cryptic pronouncements. His ideal is reflected in the line said by the legend himself. “I don’t have a star team but I have a team of stars.”
He has an indomitable thirst of learning. His manipulation of the ball’s spin and trajectory to deliver a perfect cross was beyond compare. He studied ‘Folha Seca’ of Brazilian maestro Didi and specialised in bending corner kicks as much as possible to disorientate defenders. He always tried to play football by calculations. Although he was a gifted winger but his athletics was weak which lowered his chances in Soviet Union team. But this helped him in developing players. He didn’t care about the pace of a player. He cared about the contribution the player has provided to the team by his technological aspects. His aim was to contribute something immense in the development of football.
His aim is expressed in this conversation which took place between him and a member of Staff in Science and Research of Construction Institute at Kyiv when asked about achieving his dreams he said “What’s your dream as a scientist? Your degree? Your doctorate? Your post doctoral thesis?” The scientist replied: “Maybe, but a real scientist dreams about making a contribution to scientific development, about leaving his mark on it.”“And there you have your answer,” Lobanovskyi concluded.
Valeriy Lobanovskyi was the first coach to observe opponent’s weakness by watching their games on television. He was also the first coach to develop player’s performances with the help of data collected from performances.
He and Anatoly Zelentsov,the then Dean of Dnipropetrovosk Physics Institute proposed a system where each area of the pitch was automatically analyzed by a computer that would measure the speed of individual players, the time they spent in their specific area, how they supported each other if they are taken out of position, how they worked with or without the ball. This idea was later used by Sam Allardyce.
Valeriy and Zelentsov also used many other technologies to choose players deemed suitable for the team like this-a line dissects the screen as dots move at various speeds and the players under scrutiny must tap a key as soon as it crosses the line. A score to three decimal places is given ,with a specific range deemed acceptable. He used this test to whittle down 40players to 20 to play in 1988 Euro cup.
Although Valeriy faced criticism for his techniques but he reached Euro cup final where he was defeated by Netherlands of Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijjkard. Some football scholars find connection between Valeriy’s Soviet team and Rinus Michels’ Netherlands team. Under both coaches the players didn’t have exact position and both used to deploy hard pressing possessional football.
Thus Valeriy Lobanovskyi was a football genius cum mathematician who taught football world that to become successful club talented footballers, modern equipments and technology together play a vital role. He also taught the football world that a team full of stars with less hardwork will not be successful but a team full of talented players with tremendous hardwork can achieve huge success.