Russia Sport Football History of FC Zenit

History of FC Zenit


FC Zenit traces its roots back to the physical-culture team of the Stalin Metal Works in Leningrad. On 25 May 1925, a football club was set up at the factory. The metal workers initially only played at a district level. In 1930, they made their debut in the Leningrad championships.


In 1935–36, a system of voluntary sports societies was established throughout the Soviet Union. The Leningrad Metal Works was matched with the “Stalinets” Voluntary Sports Society.

In 1936, Stalinets played in Group B of the Soviet Championships for “show teams of enterprises and government departments.” The club played its first ever national league match on 27 May 1936, in the town of Dnepropetrovsk, against the local Dynamo. The result was a 1-1 draw. Zenit’s goal was scored by Alexei Larionov. The squad was managed by Pyotr Filippov.

In 1938, Stalinets qualified for Group A. On 12 May 1938, the team played its first match in the elite division, drawing 2-2 with Stakhanovets (now FC Shakhtar) in Donetsk. Their first goals in the premier league were scored by Victor Sorokin. In their debut season, the players from Leningrad finished fourteenth among twenty-six teams.

A year later, Stalinets qualified for the final of the USSR Cup, losing 1-3 to Spartak Moscow. The best players in the team were goalkeeper Leonid Ivanov, midfielders Boris Ivin and Anatoly Mishuk and strikers Georgy Lasin, Victor Smagin and Valentin Shelagin. The squad was managed by Konstantin Yegorov.

In late 1939, the Leningrad Metal Works came under the jurisdiction of the People’s Commissariat for Armaments and Military Supplies. The factory team began the next season under a new name – “Zenit.”


The Second World War led to changes in the life of the team. Zenit came under the aegis of the Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Consolidation. Most of the footballers and coaches were evacuated to Kazan, though some remained behind in Leningrad, playing in matches in the besieged city. Others went to fight at the front. Brothers Yevgeny and Valentin Shelagin, Nikolai Salostin, Samuel Kozinets and Nikolai Lepeka were killed in action. Arkady Larionov, Boris Ivin and Leonid Dorofeyev died in the Siege of Leningrad.

In spring 1944, Zenit returned to the city and caused a sensation by winning the USSR Cup. On their way to the final, they defeated Dynamo Moscow and Spartak Moscow. In the deciding match, Zenit beat the Red Army team of CDKA 2-1, thanks to goals scored by Chuchelov and Salnikov. The squad remained more or less unchanged throughout the tournament – Leonid Ivanov, Nikolai Kopus, Ivan Kurenkov (captain), Alexei Pshenichny, Victor Bodrov, Alexei Yablochkin, Alexei Larionov, Boris Levin-Kogan, Nikolai Smirnov, Boris Chuchelov and Sergei Salnikov. The team was managed by Konstantin Lemeshev.

Unfortunately, Zenit was unable to build on this success. Each year, the team’s results grew worse and worse. In 1948, there was even talk of disbanding the club.


In 1958, for the first time in its history, Zenit was managed by a coach from outside Leningrad. Georgy Zharkov from Moscow put his trust in the graduates of the local sports schools, yet Stanislav Zavidonov, Anatoly Dergachev, Vadim Khrapovitsky, Lev Burchalkin, Nikolai Ryazanov and Oleg Morozov were unable to take the team higher than fourth place in 1958.


In 1963, under the command of Yevgeny Yeliseyev, Zenit once again came close to winning medals, only to fall at the last hurdle. In 1966, defender Vasily Danilov won a bronze medal as a member of the Soviet national squad at the World Cup. With twenty-three caps, Danilov holds the record for the number of appearances by a Zenit player for the USSR.

In 1967, Zenit found itself at the bottom of the league table. The club only escaped relegation when Group A was conveniently enlarged, keeping the team from the “city of Lenin” in the premier division on the fiftieth anniversary of the October Revolution.


In the early 1970s, Zenit received a new impetus with the appointment of Yevgeny Goryansky as manager. After Goryansky left the club to coach the national squad, Guerman Zonin attempted to introduce the results of modern scientific research into the team’s game. But the best they could achieve was fifth place in the autumn championships of 1976 and the semi-finals of the USSR Cup a year later. In October 1977, Yury Morozov took over as manager.


Yury Morozov’s innovative plans did not always meet with the approval of the squad. Two years later, he decided to gamble on a new wave of local players. The results surpassed everyone’s expectations. For the first time in its history, Zenit won medals in the national championships. Bronze medals went to Alexander Tkachenko, Anatoly Davydov (captain), Alexei Stepanov, Vladimir Golubev, Sergei Bondarenko, Nikolai Larionov, Vladimir Dolgopolov, Vladimir Kazachenok, Yury Zheludkov, Vyacheslav Melnikov, Yury Gerasimov, Igor Yakovlev, Vladimir Klementiev, Yury Timofeyev and Sergei Shvetsov.

The following season, Zenit made its debut in the UEFA Cup, losing in the first round to Dynamo Dresden 1-2 and 1-4.

In late 1982, Pavel Sadyrin was appointed manager. The young coach allowed the team more freedom, encouraging the players to improvise on the pitch. In 1984, Zenit made the finals of the USSR Cup for the third time, but was unable to overcome Dynamo Moscow.

Defeat only made the players more determined. In the Soviet League, Zenit rose to the top of the table and managed to hold onto first place. On 21 November 1984, after beating Metalist Kharkiv 4-1 in the final round, they became Champions of the USSR. Gold medals went to Mikhail Biryukov, Anatoly Davydov, Alexei Stepanov, Sergei Kuznetsov, Sergei Vedeneyev, Nikolai Larionov (captain), Vladimir Dolgopolov, Yury Zheludkov, Boris Chukhlov, Vyacheslav Melnikov, Vladimir Klementiev, Arkady Afanasiev, Valery Broshin, Sergei Dmitriyev and Dmitry Barannik. A record four players – Biryukov, Larionov, Dmitriyev and Klementiev – were called up for the national squad.

In the four seasons that Pavel Sadyrin managed Zenit, the club never finished lower than sixth in the Soviet Championships. On four occasions, they reached the semi-finals of the USSR Cup, and took revenge on Dynamo Moscow by beating them to win the Season Cup.

In 1987, Pavel Sadyrin resigned for personal reasons. Two years later, suffering from a drought of new stars, Zenit was demoted from the premier division.


On 6 August 1990, the club terminated its long-standing relationship with the Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Consolidation. Leningrad City Council re-established Zenit as a municipal football club with an independent statute. The first president was famous sports journalist Vladislav Gusyev. Yet this was not enough to help the situation on the field. Beset by financial and administrative worries, the team slipped to the bottom of the first division. Zenit only escaped relegation to the second division because of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

When the new Russian Championships were launched in 1992, Zenit began in the premier league. The team was unable to keep its place for long, however, spending the next three seasons in the first division. Over this period, the club underwent fundamental structural changes. Zenit was registered as a private limited company. Vitaly Mutko, a deputy mayor of St Petersburg, was elected chairman.

The situation began to improve following the reappointment of Pavel Sadyrin as manager. In 1996, Zenit returned to the premier league. A year later, Sadyrin was replaced by Anatoly Byshovets, who revolutionised the face of the game. For the first time in the club’s history, leading positions were entrusted to foreign legionnaires – members of the national squads of Ukraine, Armenia, Moldova and Belarus.

Zenit’s style of hard defence and strong discipline might not have looked spectacular, but it was certainly effective. Combined with a touch of looseness introduced by Anatoly Davydov, this tactical approach brought Zenit victory in the final of the Russian Cup on 26 May 1999. The hero of the match was Alexander Panov, who scored two goals. The third in the 3-1 triumph was struck by Roman Maximyuk. The winning team consisted of Roman Berezovsky, Alexander Babiy, Andrei Kondrashov, Sarkis Ovsepian, Alexei Igonin, Yury Vernidub (captain), Konstantin Lepekhin, Olexandr Gorshkov, Gennady Popovich, Roman Maximyuk, Alexander Panov, Igor Zazulin and Andrei Kobelev.


At the start of the new millennium, Yury Morozov returned to the post of manager. In 2001, Zenit once again finished third in the Premier League.

Yury Morozov was replaced by Czech coach Vlastimil Petržela, who introduced more freedom into the team’s play. In 2003, for the first time, Zenit won silver medals in the Russian Championships. The following year, five Zenit players competed in Euro 2004. Vyacheslav Malafeyev, Vladislav Radimov, Alexander Kerzhakov and Vladimir Bystrov defended the sporting honour of Russia, while Pavel Mareš won a bronze medal as part of the Czech national squad.

Despite these successes, Zenit needed a coach who could take them to a whole new level. They found the right person in Dutch master Dick Advocaat, who took over as manager in July 2006.

The following season was a triumph for Zenit. After beating FC Saturn 1-0 in the final round, the team won the Russian Championships. The golden squad of 2007 consisted of Vyacheslav Malafeyev, Kamil ?ontofalský, Martin Škrtel, Kim Dong-Jin, Alexander Anyukov, Erik Hagen, Ivica Križanac, Nicolas Lombaerts, Yury Lebedev, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (captain), Konstantin Zyryanov, Igor Denisov, Radek Šírl, Vladislav Radimov, Olexandr Gorshkov, Fernando Ricksen, Ilya Maximov, Andrei Arshavin, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Alejandro Domínguez and Fatih Tekke. Konstantin Zyryanov was voted Russian Footballer of the Year 2007.

Spring 2008 brought new, international success for Dick Advocaat and Zenit. In the knockout stages of the UEFA Cup, the players defeated Villarreal (Spain), Marseille (France), Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) and Bayern Munich (Germany). In the final, Zenit won this prestigious trophy with a 2-0 victory over Glasgow Rangers (Scotland). In June, five members of the squad – Malafeyev, Anyukov, Shirokov, Zyryanov and Arshavin – won bronze medals with the Russian national team at Euro 2008. When the championships ended, Arshavin and Zyryanov were included in the “Team of the Tournament.”

On 29 August 2008, Zenit won the UEFA Super Cup with a 2-1 defeat of Manchester United, winners of the Champions League.

Random articles