Viktor Maksymovich Bannikov was one of the best goalkeepers in the Soviet Union and helped create the Football Federation of Ukraine, being the organisations first President between 1991 to 1996.
Bannikov was born on the 28th April 1938, in Luhyny village in the Zhytomyr region of Ukraine. Throughout his career he made a mark not just on the pitch but off it as well earning the Ruby Order of UEFA for service as he dedicated his whole life to the game and in particular to the development of Ukrainian football after the country gained independence from the Soviet Union.
It was a tough upbringing for the young Bannikov as he lost his father in the Second World War and was sent to work in a show factory from the age of 8 to help his mother and family. Where possible, he found time for school and managed to take part in sports. He achieved success at basketball, volleyball and almost everything he tried but it was football where he stood apart. The transferable skills he learnt from other sports no doubt set him in good stead for his future career. Having jumped 195cm in the high jump, Bannikov earned the nickname of the “Flying Keeper”, as he was able to pull out audacious saves, when opponents were already celebrating goals.
Bannikov started his career playing in Zhytomyr for Avanhard before getting a chance at Desna Chernihiv, here he made a big impression as he made his debut at the age of 20 in the Soviet Second League, an impressive achievement considering many teams still preferred an experienced pair of hands between the sticks. In 1961, Vyacheslav Soloviev was sent from Dynamo Kyiv to scout the young keeper and he was invited for a trial. The game was against Swedish side Hammerby, and in 45 minutes, Bannikov performed confidently and keep a clean sheet. After the game he was immediately offered an opportunity to join the Blue-Whites on a permanent basis and he grasped the chance with both hands.
Despite Dynamo have several more experienced goalkeepers in their ranks, Banikov managed to establish himself by 1963, becoming the long term replacement for Oleg Makarov. He did not have to wait long for his first title either, as he was part of the Dynamo side which won the Soviet Cup in 1964. The Soviet magazine Ogonek, named Bannikov the best keeper that year.
With his impressive form for Dynamo, Bannikov found himself called up to the Soviet Union side to the 1966 World Cup. Although he didn’t make an appearance at the tournament, the USSR claimed 3rd spot and Bannikov earned himself a medal. In his career, Bannikov made 14 appearances for the Soviet Union but was unable to fully establish himself as the countries number one. In those 14 appearances, the USSR won 6 games and he conceded 13 goals, with only one defeat against Brazil in 1965.
Dynamo won the Soviet title in 1966, but unfortunately Bannikov didn’t make enough appearances to earn a medal. He managed to regain fitness however and was integral to Dynamo’s title winning campaigns in 1967 and 68, sharing the number one jersey with Yevhen Rudakov. It was at this period of his career that Bannikov made his greatest achievement. Between 7th August 1967 and the 17th April 1968, over a period of 12 games and 1,127 minutes of football, Bannikov didn’t concede a goal. This spell was the longest period of any goalkeeper in the Soviet Union and remains one of the longest in world football.
At the end of 1969, Bannikov suffered a serious broken arm which ruled him out for nearly six months and as a result, the management staff at Dynamo released him from the club in what was something of a shock move. Bannikov had the option of joining his former team mate Valeriy Lobanovksyi at Dnipro, but instead opted to move to Moscow joining Torpedo. In total at Dynamo, Bannikov won three Soviet League titles and two Soviet cups, along with his record clean sheet stretch and is warmly remember at the Kyiv club.
In Moscow, Bannikov continued his success. In 1970, he was once again announced as the best goalkeeper in the Soviet Union and was key in Torpedo’s Soviet Cup glory in 1972. With 138 career clean sheets, he is a member of the Lev Yashin club, for keepers with over 100 clean sheets. Bannikov retired in 1973 at the age of 35, despite offers from other clubs in Moscow, he decided to hang up his gloves and return to his wife and daughter in Kyiv.
Following his retirement Bannikov continued to work in football. He had a brief spell as a director at Zorya Luhansk and a short spell as manager of Spartak Zhytomyr but it was his behind the scenes work which took his time. He was working for the football union before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Once Ukraine became independent, he was instrumental in organising the key components of the FFU and the structure of Ukrainian football. He was elected as President of the FFU in 1991 a position he held until he was replaced by Valeriy Pustovoytenko, a former Prime-Minister of Ukraine. During his term as President, Ukraine were elected to join UEFA and FIFA and Bannikov was one of the founders of the Professional Football League in Ukraine. He was instrumental in organising Ukraine’s first international friendly, a 3:1 defeat to Hungary at the Avangard Stadium in Uzhorod in 1993.
He remained a first vice-President of the Football Federation of Ukraine after stepping down as its President until his death on the 25th April 2001 at the age of 62. After his death, the FFU created a tournament in his memory and named the training complex stadium at the FFU’s House of Football after Viktor Bannikov.
Welcome to the Viktor Leonenko Hall of Fame, Viktor Bannikov, “the flying keeper” and the first President of the Football Federation of Ukraine.
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