It is the year of 1969, in many areas of the United States anti-war protests are taking place. Also, the Cold War feelings between the USSR and the USA are intense. In this environment, the great Dynamo Kyiv decides to go for a tour in the capitalist West!
Dynamo Kyiv was one of the Soviet Union’s football superpowers, having financial and political support from the state. It was the first Soviet club that set foot in the United States and the question that arises is “how did this happen?”
The cause of this Soviet and American sport meeting was due to the improper organization of football as a sport in the USA during the 60s. Oakland Clippers, which was the sole opponent of Dynamo Kyiv, was founded as a club in 1966. In 1967 the club won the National Football Championship, which wasn’t even recognized by FIFA. In the next season they finished second in the championship and its Board decided to rename the club into California Clippers and play in friendly matches with foreign clubs instead of taking part in the championship.
The period that Dynamo Kyiv received the invitation for a friendly match, was at its golden age, having won 3 consecutive titles. The team was consisted of many star players and was coached by the legendary Victor Maslov. The club accepted the invitation and landed in JFK international airport of New York in February.
Few days before that, Clippers’ manager Alaxandar Obradovic was preparing the team by signing the best players. Between the signed players was Pepe Fernandez the top scorer of the previous season.
The day came and in the 23rd of February, Dynamo Kyiv entered the Kezar stadium in San Francisco. This was the first time that a Soviet team was playing on US soil and the attendance was very high, around 12.000 spectators, taking into consideration that the average number of fans that attended Clippers’ game was 4.000 fans. Dynamo Kyiv won the Clippers 3-2, Anatoly Puzach scored 3 goals for Dynamo Kyiv and Pepe Fernandez scored 2 goals for Clippers.
After this game each team played 3 more games. Clippers played with Club America, Fiorentina and West Brom and they ceased as a club few months later in June. Dynamo Kyiv’s decline started right after this friendly, the club finished 2nd the following year and the next season finished 7th in the Soviet league.
The American media covered the event and referred to Dynamo as the “Russian team” or the “Russians” and on the other side the Soviet media never covered the event. None of these two countries paid much attention to this tour, there are no reunions between the players, there are no tribute celebrations from this event, there are no photos from this iconic meeting. The event didn’t have the glory of the 1972 Olympics basketball final between the USSR and the USA and this was due to the fact that the Americans were not good in football.
Thus it may not had the reach and the coverage of other important events, but it was an exceptional moment in time in a period, in which politics and propaganda were separated from sports, just for once…