Born 20th April, 1961 in Luhansk, Ukrainian SSR, Oleksander Anatoliyovych Zavorov is a former midfielder, voted a member of Ukraine’s ‘Team of the century’ and Honoured Master of Sports of the USSR in 1986.
At the very young age of 7, Zavorov started playing for the youth team of local side Zorya Luhansk, he spent 9 years as a ‘student’ of the academy, gaining experience in his position of midfield, under the guidance of his coach Boris Fomichev.
“At an early age, he (Zavorov) stood out amongst his peers with his non-standard techniques and improvisation on the field”- Fomichev.
During his time in Zorya’s youth teams, Zavorov twice made it to the final of the Ukrainian “Leather Ball” tournament, coming runner-up both times. Zavorov’s performances did not go unnoticed and in 1977, head coach of Zorya Luhansk’s Jozef Szabo described Zavorov a “talented guy”, immediately moving Zavorov from the youth set-up to the first team squad allowing him to accelerate his development, while also turning out for Zorya’s youth teams.
It wasn’t until the 27th April 1978 when a soon to be 17 year old, Zavorov made his debut for Zorya Luhansk in the USSR Premier League game against Dinamo Tblisi. In an away fixture in the Georgian capital, Tblisi, a nervous Zavorov came on at half time. Despite playing only 45 minutes, Zavorovs impat was profound, earning him the title of man of the match on his debut (an early birthday present). Zavorov went on to score 7 goals in 23 appearances from midfield, in his time at Zorya Luhansk.
Zavorov career continued to go from strength to strength, as he was included in the youth team of the USSR heading to Japan to compete in the World Cup Championships in 1979. The USSR made it to the final, losing out to a Diego Maradona inspired Argentina. The silver medal was Zavarov’s first medal of his professional career. Throughout Zavorov at only 18 years old, playing against players at least 2 years older impressed, and scouts and managers from around the world were noting down his name. Zavorov would go on and break through into the main national team later on in his career, gaining 41 caps, scoring 6 goals 2 of which came in the World Cup Finals in 1986 and 1990, as well as featuring in the USSR’S runners-up team in the Euro 1988 championships.
The 1980-1981 season saw Zavorov move to Russian side SKA Rostov. Zavarov has subsequently described this part of his career as a very black period in his life, largely lost to football”. Rostov were a side managed at the time with a steely military discipline, an atmosphere Zavorov felt unable to open up and express his freedom-loving nature, referring to it as 2 years of “service”. Nevertheless, Zavorov scored 13 goals in 64 appearances, and played an influential role in the USSR Cup victory in 1981. Thereafter, he returned to a relegation threatened Zorya Luhansk in 1982.
Like many legendary Ukrainian players of this era, Zavarov would go on to enjoy his greatest successes while playing for giants Dynamo Kyiv, for whom he for signed in 1983. His 5 seasons in Kyiv saw him win many accolades including the USSR Premier League 1985, ’86, the USSR Cup 1985, ’87, and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1985-86. It was his time at Kyiv, in particular in 1985-1986 where he reached his peak, winning many individual accolades including the Soviet Footballer of the Year 1986, Ukrainian Footballer of the Year 1986, the UEFA Cup Winners Cup 1985-1986 top scorer and finishing a respectable 6th place in the Ballon d’Or in 1986 (the highest he would finish despite being nominated every year from 1986-1989).
From Kyiv, Zavorov became the first Ukrainian to represent an Italian side, as Turin giants Juventus splashed out $5million dollars for his signature. At the time, Juventus were going through a transition, bringing to an end the careers of Platini, Bonek, Wider and Tardelli while building a new side. Zavorov was stepping into the unknown, and many fans doubted he could replace their former idol Michele Platini. In a mixed 2 years (1988-1990) at Juventus, it was reported in the USSR that Zavorov was under the media spotlight, being constantly scrutinised, and although the Italian media were balanced in their assessments, this was not portrayed at home. Zavorov would later speak out against what he felt was a campaign by the press in the USSR to undermine him, as a result of his move to Western Europe.
Both Juventus and Zavorov came to the mutual decision to part in 1990 after winning the Coppa Italia and The UEFA Cup in the final making Zavorov the last Soviet player to enjoy drinking champagne out of a European trophy. During his 2 seasons with “The Old Lady”, Zavarov made 60 appearances scoring 7 goals, though question marks continue over how successful his time with the club were.
During their time together in Italy, Platini and Zavorov would strike up a friendship and it was on the suggestion of the former that, Zavorov would move to France, to a side where Platini started his career, Nancy. Zavorov moved in 1990, where he played in both the top and second divisions of the French league for 5 years. Here he managed 133 appearances and 23 goals
At the age of 34, Zavorov moved to French amateur side Saint-Dizier as the player-coach. Zavorov was player manager for the first 3 years (1995-1998) and it was here where he got his first taste of management. Hanging his boots up at the age of 37 to concentrate on management, Zavorov remained at Saint-Dizier for a further 5 years.
It was after this 5 year spell in France, Zavorov was given the opportunity to manage his first professional club, FC Wil of Switzerland. As a friend of club owner at the time, Ukrainian Ihor Belanov, a Zavorov knew, jumped at the opportunity to manage FC WIl, however this was short lived as he did not hold the necessary UEFA licences, and the Swiss side finished bottom and relegated from the Swiss top league. He was then made director of football with the club instead. Following the testing times at FC Wil, Zavorov then had brief spells at Kazakh side FC Astana (2004) and Ukrainian sides FC Matalist Kharkiv (2005) and FC Arsenal Kyiv (2006-2009), before being appointed as an advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine for Euro 2012, Boris Kolesnikov. Here once again, he linked up with his friend Platini, who as well as the entire Ukrainian population along with Poland put the finishing touches to the UEFA Euro 2012 in what was a fantastic tournament.
He was a coach for Oleh Blokhin at the Euros in which Ukraine failed to get passed the group stages. He remained in his position in the National side coaching set up after the Euro’s and when ill health prevented Oleh Blokhin being involved in the late 2012 qualifiers, Zavarov stepped in as caretaker coach. Blokhin left his post as Ukraine coach following his move to Dynamo Kyiv and was replaced by Mykhaylo Fomenko. Zavarov was promoted to assistant coach for Ukraine and is hoping to guide the side to Euro 2016.
Oleksander Anatoliyovych Zavorov, welcome to the Viktor Leonenko Hallf of Fame.
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