There aren’t many footballers capable of scoring six goals for their National Team in a World Cup tournament but the former Russian forward Oleg Salenko did it in 1994 in the United States of America.
Despite the poor campaign of the Russian National Team during that edition of the World Cup, Oleg Salenko is a name that the experienced Cameroonian goalkeeper Jacques Songo’o will never forget. After two defeats on the previous matches against Brazil and Sweden, Russia made the Cameroonian team pay the bill. They trashed the African team 6-1 with five goals from Oleg Salenko and another one from Dmitri Radchenko. The 42-year old Roger Milla scored for Cameroon, by the way.
Russia was knocked out on the first round of the competition and Oleg Salenko had to share the tournament’s Golden Boot with Hristo Stoichkov, who drove Bulgaria to the fourth place of the competition.
Salenko was a surprising choice from the Russia’s head coach, Pavel Sadyrin, for a team with a wide range of quality centre forwards such as Dimitri Radchenko, Vladimir Beschastnykh and Igor Kolyvanov, but Salenko managed to make a stand and proved that the manager was right in bringing him in.
Salenko’s career was full of ups and downs mostly due to injuries and consequent poor physical fitness. Salenko started his career at Zenit Leningrad (former name of Zenit St. Petersburg) but after only two years with them he joined the Soviet football giants FC Dynamo Kyiv, where he enjoyed some good times. The Leningrad-born footballer played for CD Logroñés before the 1994 International competition but his top level performances at the USA World Cup granted him a move to Valencia CF and one year later to Rangers FC. However, that was probably the beginning of a slow downfall on his once-promising career.
However, it was in international football that Oleg Salenko proved all his worth. In the 1989 U-20 World Cup, held in Saudi Arabia, the Russian forward was the tournament’s top scorer and claimed his first Golden Boot. Salenko is the only footballer in the World to win two Golden Boots at International competitions, both at a youth level and in senior competitions.
Oleg Salenko hung up his boots in 2001, after a short spell at Pogon Szczecin. In 2003, he tried his luck as a manager at the helm of the Ukrainian beach soccer team but he left after just one tournament. Currently, Salenko works as an assistant at the Football Federation of Ukraine but he seems “condemned” to total oblivion and apparently almost no one remembers his past deeds.
Salenko has only managed to make it into the media headlines once again after he fainted on an Ukrainian television show earlier this year, which is definitely not enough coverage for a footballer that, according to several pundits in the past, was to be one of the most brilliant European forwards of his time and still holds so many interesting records, achieved during his footballing career.