Baltika Kaliningrad – The Western Outpost of Russian Football

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You may ask yourself the question why write your first blog about an obscure team who currently lay struggling dead last in the Russian second tier, the Football National League (FNL) on the road to nowhere apart from relegation.  The answer to that question (Whilst sounding strange to some) lies with my time whilst living in the Estonian capital of Tallinn. The continued rise of Russia on the international stage over the past ten years has given more and more notice to Russia’s most westerly Oblast Kaliningradskaya and nowhere more is this so than in the three Baltic republics.  Whilst already being a huge fan of Russian Football I began to take note of this small (yet for me attractive club) fighting on the Baltic Coast.

The Kaliningrad Region geographically is one of the Russian Federation’s smallest regions in size with a population of just under one million residents.  Home to the Russian Baltic Fleet and physically surrounded by Poland an Lithuania, Kaliningrad is an isolated region.  The reality over the past 25 years of being isolated, and occasionally struggling through tough times has led to characteristics like strength, team-work and togetherness, which is not only imbedded within the majority of residents but also gives Kaliningrad that intimidating and daunting external appearance.

FC Baltika Kaliningrad are situated within the city of Kaliningrad.  They currently play at the Baltika Stadium, a ground at which they have spent all their history. With the success of the Russian Federation securing the 2018 World Cup however, FC Baltika are set to move into their new Kaliningrad Stadium, which will host a number of World Cup games with a capacity of 35,000. The stadium is then due to be reduced down to the capacity of 25,000 becoming the new permanent home of FC Baltika.

The club was founded on 22 December 1954 as Pishchevik Kaliningrad. In 1958, the club was renamed FC Baltika Kaliningrad.  The team entered the Soviet League in 1957 and played in Class B (1957–1965), Class A, Group 2 (1966–1970), and Second League (1971–1991). The best result was achieved in 1984, when Baltika won the regional group tournament.

In 1992, Baltika entered the Russian Second Division and won the regional tournament and promotion to the First Division. After a fourth-place finish in 1993 and third position in 1994, Baltika won the division in 1995.  Baltika’s best moments in history came in the early 1990’s just after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, as they achieved three successive years from 1996-1998 in the top flight, achieving a 7th place in 1996 the best result in the clubs history.

However, since 2007 Baltika has made very inconsistent attempts to gain promotion to the Russian Holy Grail and Top Division.  Their best attempt came in season 2012/13 Finishing 5th but just missing out.

I write this review just as Baltika have lost 1-0 to SKA Khabarovsk in the FNL, which was not only their 5th straight defeat but can highlight the difficulty in Russian football regarding distance, which effects no other country in Europe to the same extent.

The trip to Khabarovsk, and Vladivostok based Luch Energiya is around 9,500 kilometers and the time difference is no less eight hours.  The distances involved with Russian football can at times means teams play the distances and not their opponents, which we recently saw perfact examples of in the Russian cup when both Spartak Moscow and CSKA Moscow were eliminated by much weaker opponents in the Eastern Russia.

Though this does not excuse the poor start to the season FC Baltika has started, a total of eight goals in the first 13 games shows the lack of creativity and fire power possessed this year in the FC Baltika team.  The top Bombardier Kirill Marushak being the top club scorer with just two goals.

With the next 2 away games in both Sibir and Kuban Krasnodar and a home game in the middle to Mordovia Saransk, unfortunately for them I can’t see this current pattern of results changing.

The future could be bright

Whilst currently the majority of fans/pundits are rightly concerned about the possibility of relegation this season, which would be a disaster after 10 years of stability, I personally believe FC Baltika have what it takes to survive.  It is true to say more investment is needed not only to improve the club both on and off the pitch but also to increase the attendances and get back them back up to the 20,000 sell outs they were receiving during their peak spell in the 1990s.

If by a miracle within the upcoming years the above can be achieved the FC Baltika will be in the best place to capitalise.  FC Baltica being situated one hour behind Moscow but equal with CET gives  FC Baltika the added advantage of travelling across Europe faster and easier than most Russian teams and potentially being less effected due to the travelling distances.

Dreaming of a European future for FC Baltika Kaliningrad can sound at this moment in time slightly crazy but with the optimism around a potential new stadium anything could be possible?


Follow Stephen on Twitter: @StephenFenton88

 

 

Author: Stephen Fenton

British Citizen: Arsenal FC & Russian Football Fan. Whilst spending a large quantity of my time in Estonia and Russia, my love for the RFPL was born.
Interested in Russian History,Culture and Politics. Profession – Logistics Coordinator (European Specialist).

Comments

  1. Well done!informative and professional))

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