A Mess Worth Making? – The Rise and Fall of Mordovia Saransk

In Russia as elsewhere in football, it is a reasonably rare thing to see a team emerge from obscurity, climb the league system and find itself dining at the top table of the national game. When it does happen, it is often thanks in no small part to a sudden influx of cash – Wigan, Hoffenheim, RB Leipzig – which history has shown does not always stick around. Even established clubs who catch the taste of success – Anzhi, Portsmouth, Deportivo – often find that their flirtations with glory come at … [Read more...]

A Mountain in Moscow – Ararat and the Armenian Dream

Football in Armenia is in a precarious position. With financial problems accounting for the demise of several clubs in the top flight, the domestic Premier League has found itself reduced to just six clubs, and those qualifying for UEFA competition regularly find themselves dumped out of Europe at the first qualifying hurdle. Internationally, the nation which so narrowly missed out on Euro 2012 has since failed spectacularly, with political in-fighting leading to the blacklisting of star players … [Read more...]

Déjà vu all over again – Rotor Volgograd Reborn

For long-term followers of Russian football’s second-tier, the Football National League (FNL), the fixture list for the opening day of the 2017/18 campaign will, for some at least, have brought a strange combination of faint hope mixed with premature resignation. Last season, the feeder division to the Premier League was at least graced with historical giant Dinamo Moscow, battling below the top flight for the first time in their history. Spartak Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg’s reserve squads … [Read more...]

The Day The Giants Fell

It began while much of Europe was still asleep, and indeed many Russians would have only been stirring in their beds when the first goal went in. Vasily Karmazinenko's 28th minute goals for SKA-Energia Khabarovsk against Volga arrived just before 4.30am in the UK, and by the time the final whistle blew, British clocks were yet to strike six. Nevertheless, Volga were out of the Russian Cup. Karmazinenko grabbed a double was enough to see off the Nizhny Novgorod side 2-0, and before long they … [Read more...]

Tosno: Paying The Price To Join Zenit’s Family?

Far away from the bright lights of the Russian Premier League, newly-formed Second Division side Tosno parted company with their coach last week in a move which failed to register in the minds of those discussing the latest managerial departures in the top flight - Dorinel Munteanu at Kuban and Yuri Krasnozhan, almost inevitably, from Terek. Munteanu's dismissal from the Krasnodar club highlighted a remarkable short-sightedness in the boardroom, removing the Romanian just a few months into a … [Read more...]

Gazzaev and Delusions of Grandeur

Valeri Gazzaev is a hero in Vladikavkaz, and rightly so. In 1995, having already made his name known with a respectable goalscoring record in the 70s, Gazzaev led Spartak-Alania to the Russian Top League title, unexpectedly breaking the hegemony of Oleg Romanstev's Spartak side with the unfashionable North Ossetian club. The scale of the achievement can be seen in the fact that, barring a second place finish in the following season, Alania have never broken back into the top five of the … [Read more...]

Meltdown in Moscow

On Wednesday night, Russian champions CSKA hosted their first home game of the Champions League campaign, with Czech side Viktoria Plzen the visitors. Except, of course, that they didn't. Zenit did, their Petrovsky pitch being used for the second European night in succession after the owners' goalless draw against Austria Wien. In many ways, it was a reasonable outcome for the Muscovites - initial proposals had seen Krasnodar mooted as a venue, several hundred miles further south. With their … [Read more...]

Dust Settling In the Second Tier

When the Russian football championship drew to a close last season, much attention was paid to the controversy which went some way to determining the destination of the Premier League title, with Zenit 3-0 defeat to Dinamo finally upheld on appeal to help CSKA on their way. Those watching the First Division had less intrigue, as Tom Tomsk and Ural Ekaterinburg sealed promotion comfortably in advance – only Khimki’s final day demise offered any excitement. Further down the pyramid, however, … [Read more...]

Assuming Anzhi’s Mantle?

In early August, the Russian football community went into meltdown. Anzhi were slashing their budget, prompting rumours of a fire sale at every turn – Eto’o here, Willian there, Russian internationals on buy one get one free. Kerimov was cutting back, they said, and the rest of the world stood back and laughed as the Anzhi project appeared set to crumble. Purely due to the lack of games played and the relatively short period of time that has elapsed, it is hard to see how severe the impact … [Read more...]

Anguish For The Ingush

Ingushetia is not a part of the world renowned for its footballing prowess. If it is mentioned in the news at all, it is in relation to Islamist insurgency, ethno-religious struggles, and a growing sense of independence and injustice at its treatment from the Moscow-powered 'Centre.' Most references to the region in the West are in relation to the two Chechen wars, with few showing an interest in exploring or understanding the nature of the area. Within Russia, it is developing a region as … [Read more...]