Leather Ball - All-Union Soviet Football Tournament

In 1964 the famous Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin in a conversation with journalists suggested that a national football tournament for boys, from all republics of the Soviet Union, should be arranged. With the support and patronage of other great Soviet footballers such as Alexei Khomich, Alexei Paramonov, Victor Monday, Valery Voronin and Valentin Ivanov the idea was well received by the Komsomol (Communist Union of Youth) Central Committee who took steps to organise what would be a massive tournament.

The first rules of 'Leather Ball' (кожаный мяч) were published in May 1964 and teams were invited to apply to take part, and take part they did. 170,000 teams, made up of nearly three million boys entered the competition. A series of regional qualifying competitions were held and the first finals were played on the 16th August 1965 at the Dynamo Stadium in Moscow. The first champions were a team from Minsk, with a team from Lugansk of the Ukrainian SSR in second place. The huge geographical spread of the tournament was demonstrated as the third-placed team were from Vladivostok on the Soviet Pacific coast, around 6500km distant from Moscow!

The tournament continues to this day and except for brief period during the mid-1990s due to the break up of the Soviet Union, has taken place every year since that first tournament back in 1964.

Like most national sporting competitions in the Soviet Union the Leather Ball events were commemorated with a series of pre-printed postal stationery items. Below are two such items. The first one is from 1970 and the second from 1982.

Soviet Union - 'Leather Ball' All-Union Boys Football Tournament 1970 (by footysphere)

Soviet Union - 'Leather Ball' All-Union Boys Football Tournament 1982 (by footysphere)

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