The leg­endary Spar­tak mid­field­er built a bright career, but did not find him­self in life after sports.

Fyo­dor Cherenkov was born in Moscow into a sim­ple Sovi­et fam­i­ly: his moth­er worked in the hous­ing office, his father worked at an air­craft fac­to­ry. Fedor start­ed play­ing at the age of three, stud­ied at the Kunt­se­vo school, and at the age of 12 he moved to Spar­tak.

Spartak fan who became a club legend

Fedor’s father took him to match­es, and the boy, fol­low­ing his father, became a Spar­tak fan.. In 1977, the young man’s dream came true — Niko­lai Starostin invit­ed him to join Spar­tak. Then coach Kon­stan­tin Beskov took the 19-year-old promis­ing mid­field­er to the main team.

In 1978, Cherenkov made his debut for the first team of Spar­tak. . Back then, few could have imag­ined that the puny guy (174 cm tall and weigh­ing 58 kg) would become the leader of the “red-whites”.

“Even as a child, play­ing with guys much old­er in age, I real­ized: in order to beat a phys­i­cal­ly more pow­er­ful oppo­nent, you need to be able to pre­dict his moves, quick­ly nav­i­gate the game envi­ron­ment, and always have one or two drib­bling feints in reserve,” said Cherenkov .

For many years, Cherenkov remained the leader of Spar­tak and was rec­og­nized sev­er­al times as the best foot­ball play­er in the USSR. Cherenkov played his farewell match on August 23, 1994, when Spar­tak met with the Ital­ian Par­ma.

Before the match, a wel­com­ing let­ter to Cherenkov from Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Boris Yeltsin was read out; a gift was attached to the let­ter — three-room apart­ment in Moscow. And Tama­ra Gverdt­siteli per­formed her famous song “Vivat, King, Vivat!”

Mental illness and death

After his career end­ed, Cherenkov’s health rapid­ly dete­ri­o­rat­ed. Prob­lems appeared dur­ing my career: in 1984, doc­tors diag­nosed the foot­ball play­er with a men­tal dis­or­der, which caused severe depres­sion.

That year, Cherenkov had an attack — he threw a tantrum in a cafe­te­ria in Tbil­isi. The foot­ball play­er shout­ed that they want­ed to poi­son him and asked every­one to hide. Want­i­ng to hide from non-exis­tent ene­mies, the play­er Fedor did not jump from the 16th floor of the hotel.

“It seems to me that if the treat­ment had been com­plet­ed, per­haps the dis­ease would have gone away alto­geth­er,” said the athlete’s broth­er. “Every­thing had to be done in accor­dance with the doctor’s strict instruc­tions — to bring the patient to real improve­ment. It was pos­si­ble. But he didn’t treat doc­tors very well and returned to Spar­tak at the first oppor­tu­ni­ty — be it dur­ing his career or play­ing for vet­er­ans.”

At the end of his career, Cherenkov worked briefly with the youth of Spar­tak, but in the future he could not cope with the work of a coach. He lived qui­et­ly, tak­ing part in var­i­ous vet­er­ans’ tour­na­ments.

In the ear­ly 2000s, Cherenkov fell into a deep depres­sion and twice tried to com­mit sui­cide. Reli­gion saved him from despair: the mid­field­er went to a monastery near Ivano­vo, com­mu­ni­cat­ed with the abbot, and worked as a labor­er. To the sur­prise of his rel­a­tives, Fedor felt bet­ter there, but he could not com­plete­ly over­come the ill­ness.

On Sep­tem­ber 22, 2014, Cherenkov lost con­scious­ness at his entrance and was tak­en to the clin­ic in seri­ous con­di­tion. Two weeks lat­er he died; experts named a brain tumor as the prob­a­ble cause of death. Cherenkov was buried at the Troekurovsky ceme­tery in Moscow, and more than 15 thou­sand peo­ple came to say good­bye to the leg­end.