Home » Facts » 1963 Ballon d’Or Winner: Lev Yashin And The Exhibition Match

1963 Ballon d’Or Winner: Lev Yashin And The Exhibition Match

Goalkeeping legend Lev Yashin remains the only Ballon d’Or winning goalkeeper and first Soviet national to claim the award since its humble beginnings seven years prior.

During the early 1960’s, Yashin became renowned for revolutionising the position by imposing his authority on entire defences. He had a true vocal presence, barking orders at his defenders, venturing off his line to intercept crosses and charging out to meet onrushing attackers.

It was the polar opposite of goalkeeping practice at the time where the player would spend most of their ninety minutes waiting to be called into action.

Yashin’s performances at the 1958 World Cup, the tournament’s first to be broadcast internationally, left an unforgettable impression on a global audience.

Whilst fellow professionals produced a seemingly more remarkable year than Yashin had – a single fixture ultimately held huge weight during the voting for Europe’s finest player.

This is the story of Lev Yashin and the exhibition match.

A Debatable Winner?

Yashin was very consistent during 1963, playing 29 games in all competitions, ending the campaign with a Soviet Top League title and domestic cup to add to his trophy cabinet.

He was named ‘European Goalkeeper Of The Year’ for a ninth time and the fifth in a row – also crowned ‘USSR Goalkeeper Of The Year.’ The Soviet made World Soccer magazine’s “World XI” and was even acknowledged as part of the “FIFA XI.”

Despite his Ballon d’Or winning margin of eighteen points, other players posed a threat to Yashin’s 1963 triumph. Runner-up Gianni Rivera won the European Cup with Milan whilst
Tottenham Hotspur striker Jimmy Greaves scored a remarkable 49 goals in 49 games, nine times in as many matches for England and won the Cup Winners Cup.

So what gave Lev Yashin the edge in eventually influencing the Ballon d’Or panel to hand him European football’s most prestigious individual prize?

The Game That Convinced A Continent

In October 1963, The Football Association invited FIFA to select a ‘Rest of the World’ team to play England as part of an FA celebration, marking the 100th anniversary of association football and held at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Lining up in goal for the world eleven and at the age of 34, Yashin showed a wider audience his immense quality, making a number of spectacular saves with several denying Ballon d’Or rival Greaves from scoring for England.

Yashin’s display underlined his reputation as the best goalkeeper on the planet and brought him even greater international attention.

From that moment, he became known as the ‘Black Spider,’ wearing a distinctive all-black outfit and likened to the insect with its “eight arms to save almost everything.”

Yashin played 812 games throughout his career, 326 of those matches for Dynamo Moscow and won 74 caps for the USSR national team.

He featured twelve times during World Cup tournaments and didn’t concede a goal on four of those occasions. The Soviet also kept 270 clean sheets and saved over 150 penalties!

Goalkeepers continue to be nominated for the Ballon d’Or with Oliver Kahn, Manuel Neuer and Gianluigi Buffon registering a ‘top three finish’ during the 21st century alone.

And yet the amazing fact remains, only one goalkeeping superstar has actually won it.

1963 Ballon d’Or Top 20

Rank Name Club(s) Nationality Points
1 Lev Yashin Soviet Union Dynamo Moscow Soviet Union 73
2 Gianni Rivera Italy Milan Italy 55
3 Jimmy Greaves England Tottenham Hotspur England 50
4 Denis Law England Manchester United Scotland 45
5 Eusébio Portugal Benfica Portugal 19
6 Karl-Heinz Schnellinger West Germany 1. FC Köln West Germany 16
7 Uwe Seeler West Germany Hamburger SV West Germany 9
8 Bobby Charlton England Manchester United England 5
Luis Suárez Italy Inter Milan Spain
Giovanni Trapattoni Italy Milan Italy
11 José Altafini Italy Milan Brazil 4
Paul Van Himst Belgium Anderlecht Belgium
13 Flórián Albert Hungary Ferencváros Hungary 3
Harry Bild Sweden IFK Norrköping Sweden
Josef Masopust Czechoslovakia Dukla Prague Czechoslovakia
Omar Sívori Italy Juventus Argentina
17 Robert Herbin France Saint-Étienne France 2
Jef Jurion Belgium Anderlecht Belgium
Cesare Maldini Italy Milan Italy
Károly Sándor Hungary MTK Budapest Hungary


Upon winning the Ballon d’Or in 1963, the humble Lev Yashin stated – “I am not the best goalkeeper in the world, it is Vladimir Beara.” The Yugoslavian keeper in question was nicknamed ‘The ballet dancer’ because of his elegance between the sticks.

Gianni Rivera played as an inside forward during the 1963 European Cup final as his Milan side defeated Eusebio’s Benfica.

Although Jimmy Greaves’ total of 37 league goals during the 1962/63 season was impressive – remarkably the Englishman struck 41 times for Chelsea throughout their 1960/61 campaign!

About The Author