Cruyff, Ajax, Feyenoord – this first Dutch Vintage post features retro imagery from a dizzying decade of development in the Dutch game as it evolved swiftly from amateurism through to European club dominance and international brilliance.
Whether already a devout follower of the late Dutch photographer Henk Blansjaar or a new convert-in-waiting yet to be introduced to his wonderful work, we’re sure you’ll enjoy our new regular series Through The Lens With Henk Blansjaar. Over the coming months we’ll be catering for Henk newcomers and completists alike as we collate the best of his prodigious football photographic output.
Blansjaar came to prominence after World War II when he was employed by De Spaarnestad, Holland’s biggest publisher. He built an impressive reputation visually documenting everyday life in post War Netherlands, but it was his work photographing Dutch sport – and particularly football – for Panorama magazine that established him as something of a cult figure during the 1960s.
A warm, self-effacing humour and a readiness to blow away staid football photography conventions were his trademarks. His ideas were especially well realised through his distinct take on team line-ups pictures. The de facto standard shots of a team posing for the camera on their home pitch in two lines, one kneeling and one standing, was brilliantly deconstructed and recast as riotous, colourful celebrations of unorthodox poses in unlikely locations.
John Charles was born in South Wales and joined the boys-section of his local club Swansea Town upon leaving school at the age of 14. Scouted by Leeds United, his potential impressed the Yorkshire club and he signed for them on his 17th birthday in 1948. Within a year he would make his first-team debut at centre-half and put in a performance of great maturity. There were no nerves, there were no mistakes – this was a player who appeared to arrive in the game fully formed. In 1952 his manager Frank Buckley boldly switched him to centre-forward and he adapted to this new role in his typically effortless style. His 29 goals fired Leeds to promotion to Division One in 1956 and in his debut top-flight season he did even better with 38, the step-up in quality not hindering him in the slightest.
A powerful and imposing man at 6ft 2″; Charles was strong, full of running, peerless in the air and quick over short bursts. All traditional British footballing virtues but he was one of those rare homegrown players to have the intelligence, elegance on the ball, good touch and clever movement to rival the best from mainland Europe. His bravery and sportsmanship were legendary – in an FA Cup defeat at Arsenal he was so desperate to avoid giving away a corner that he ran over his own goal-line and ended up crashing painfully into the moat around the pitch, while he earned the nickname of ‘the Gentle Giant’ for a career in which he was never cautioned or sent-off.
Following its black & white companion piece earlier this week, our second Lev Yashin Vintage post collects up a gallery of impressive colour images starring the famous Russian keeper.
As brilliant a talent as Yashin was, his wider international fame was undoubtedly driven in part by his powerful visual image – whether sporting that iconic, black Soviet Union shirt or the unusually positive public image he presented to the world. This was a good-looking man with a naturally friendly disposition quite at odds with the image most in the west had of the archetypal dour, cold Soviet Union footballer.
Yashin’s two decade long career yielded five Soviet Top League titles and three Soviet Cup wins with Dynamo Moscow. He appeared in four World Cups between 1958 and 1970 and won the inaugural 1960 European Championships title. On becoming the 1963 European Footballer of the Year, Yashin became the first and, to date, only goalkeeper ever to win this prestigious award.
The Black Panther died prematurely in 1990 at the age of just 60.
Whether Lev Yashin is the greatest exponent of the goalkeeper’s art that football has seen is open to debate. There is, however, no doubt that the Black Panther revolutionised the way that the keeper’s role was interpreted during the 1950s and 1960s.
Yashin was the first goalkeeper to properly lead a team from the back and he introduced a dynamism and a mobility to his position rarely seen before. Rather than simply his 6-yard-box, the entire penalty box was Yashin’s natural domain and he was ever-willing to come off his line to take crosses, close down attackers or remonstrate with his defenders if they weren’t doing his bidding.
This first of two consecutive Vintage posts collects up some of our favourite black and white images dedicated to the great man. Look out for our next selection which features a selection of his seminal colour pictures.
Hungary is the latest nation to feature in our Vintage series as we share a varied selection of retro images featuring some of their stars of the 1960s.
This was the second great generation of Hungarian footballers. While not touched with the same genius as the Mighty Magyars from the 1950s; with players like Bene and Albert the nation still could boast players of truly world-class talent.
This story is a tribute to a quite wonderful example of footballer fecklessness, a trait that you’ll see is in no way the exclusive preserve of the modern player. Back in 1961 Vasas, the club of Budapest’s iron and steelworkers, travelled to France to play a series of tour matches and capitalise financially on their status as new Hungarian champions.
Playing football for hard cash and the enrichment of western imperialists should have been a practice that was at odds with the tenets of Communism, but such tours were tacitly tolerated as a way of earning much-needed negotiable western currency. Acceptance of the necessity of tours didn’t mean that officials were going to sit back and allow players unfettered exposure to Capitalist temptation in the west, however. To give an ideological counterpoint during such trips, officials would typically arrange a variety of sterile activities for the players when they weren’t playing or training: think farms, factories and collectives rather than beaches, shopping and sightseeing.