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“Black spider” on a grape vine

Or how the victory of the USSR national team with Lev Yashin as a goalkeeper over Argentina in Buenos Aires 55 years ago gave births to a “football wine” in honor of the great goalkeeper.

“Black spider” Aranha negra – this is how Lev Yashin was called in South America after the tour of the USSR national team in 1961. The soviet national team was consequently winning the matches with the Argentinians, Chileans and Uruguayans. The local mass media was full of excitement and laudatory epithets: “Meskhi – fifty million pesos. Metreveli – fifty million pesos. Yashin – priceless!” It has been many years since that time, but I still remember by heart this story that my grandfather, Isaak Groisman, told me when I was a young restless boy. My grandfather’s father was working at emperor’s stables in Kiev, later he immigrated to Argentina and made a fortune on production and sales of Malbec wine produced in Mendoza… My grandfather had been a passionate football fan for all his life, supporting two teams: the Argentinians and Russians, and he just couldn’t help visiting that match…

“The road from Mendoza to the capital took me two days and several transfers; I stopped by at my uncle’s apartment for a couple of minutes and then went straight to River Plate Stadium to buy a ticket. How naïve I was! There were thousands like me surrounding the arena, the unhappy ones. All tickets had been sold out. It was a paradise for resellers – I paid them for one ticket the amount which I still keep secret from my wife, and I couldn’t do the other way! How could I not see my favorite Luis Artime and Jose Francisco Sanfilippo with my own eyes in a legendary stadium, the football players whose virtuosity, striking power and popularity was, in my opinion, higher than those of the future football stars, Mario Kemps and Diego Maradona. I didn’t know the soviet national team very well, through such names like Meskhi, Ponedelnik, Merteveli, Voronin were familiar to everybody. But most of all, I wanted to see famous Lev Yashin, the champion of Europe and the Olympic champion, one of the best goalkeepers in the world. And he became the main hero of this match after brilliant Ponedelnik scored two beautiful goals in the beginning of the game and the Argentinians vigorously attacked lev Yashin’s goal. Excellent Sanfilippo was like a storm, he made several dangerous shots, one of which hit the very corner at seven meters – the goal seemed to be inevitable to everyone. Raising his arms to the sky ready to celebrate his victory over Yashin, in one instance Sanfilippo was literally beating his head against the ground: he fell on the grass and hit the ground with his forehead several times in defeat when he saw the ball in the goalkeeper’s hands. And I also remember one moment when Yashin, outside penalty area, took off his famous cap and returned the ball with his head. The referee was taken aback and… awarded a penalty kick, even though no rules had been broken. During the break, however, he apologized and explained that it was the first time when he saw a goalkeeper’s headwork…

The Argentinians managed to make only one goal in the end of the game after Yashin’s replacement who had to leave the field due to concussion after a collision with one of the Argentinian players. The President of the South American Football Confederation and the Football Association of Argentina Jose Raul Colombo vigorously applauded to the hero of the match standing on his feet when Yashin was leaving the field, then he showed thumb up and exclaimed only one word: “Yashin!”
Later, in Mendoza, I read in one of the newspapers: “The soviet team has a real prodigy who knows how to thrill the public and can be extremely useful. It is the goalkeeper Yashin. He is a master of goalkeeper’s specific and general football skills. The entire defense of the soviet team plays together with Yashin. He steps forward to receive the pass from one of his teammates and, with several footsteps and a blasting toss, he starts a new combination. Yashin is a part of a tight team, whose job is not only to protect the goal.” The regular football fans of South America do not call him other than “Aranha negra Leo”. Dressed fully in black next to the goal net that looks like a spider web from afar. This was exactly the way I remembered him. So, I decided to start a new row of grape vines dreaming that one day it would give a wine named after the great goalkeeper Yashin!”

And now we are here, in Moscow, the native land of Lev Yashin, fulfilling my grandfather’s dream – presenting you the wine from Mendoza named in honor of the great goalkeeper!…

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