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...]

New Stadia’s Impact on Attendances in the RFPL

Low attendances in the RFPL have been the subject of much debate and despair. People have put forth many different reasons for the poor league attendance, which has hovered around 11,000 per match for the last few years. In comparison, the Bundesliga averages 41,000 per match, and the English Premier League averages 35,000 per match. Some say that the quality of the league is too low, while others, including then-Sbornaya coach Leonid Slutsky, claim that Russia is simply not a footballing … [Read more...]

Akhmat Grozny – Three Name Changes, Two War’s and One Crazy Owner

Before this season we saw a change in names with the team of Grozny. The city which is located in the province of Chechnya. So what happened to Terek Grozny? Why is it now Akhmat Grozny? And how has the war and the destroyed city affect the city’s greatest football team? History of Chechnya To understand everything, we must start it all from the beginning. Chechnya was taken over by Russia as early as in the middle of the 19th century. It’s a province which possesses several large oil fields … [Read more...]

Reforming the Trans-Siberian Football League

The Football National League is the biggest football league in the world according to geographic area, covering over 4,500 miles as-the-crow-flies and even crosses eight time zones. Due to the size of the league and other problems synonymous with Russian football such as fiscal instability, political corruption and systemic mismanagement, many clubs - as previously explored - do not face a race to thrive, but a battle to survive. READ PART ONE: Problems with the Trans-Siberian Football … [Read more...]

Dinamo Moscow’s 1945 Goodwill Tour of Britain

“The Russians are Coming”: Arrival 4th November 1945, Croydon. Two planes, appearing to be Douglas DC-3 Dakotas, approached the runway and touched down amidst a barrage of London sunshine, a characteristically mundane and everyday sight for an airport which based RAF Transport Command from 1944. These giant planes would ferry ammunition and vehicles from factory to operating unit throughout World War Two. However, on this day, the influx of these two planes was a prodigious and preternatural … [Read more...]

Lokomotiv and the Attempt to Solve Moscow’s Spectator Crisis

Over the past month, I have had the pleasure of visiting home games of all of Moscow’s major football clubs. From Spartak, CSKA and Lokomotiv in the Russian Football Premier League (RFPL) to Dinamo in the Football National League (FNL) and Torpedo in the Center Zone of the 2nd Division. One thing all the games had in common was that the attendances were painfully low. Whether it was the second game at the brand new Arena CSKA or a lower league Moscow derby between Torpedo and Saturn … [Read more...]

Failing the Kids – Russian Football’s Greatest Crime

Try to imagine the following.  An ambitious teacher-sports coach is embroiled in a child abuse scandal.  Defending his colleague and lifelong friend against accusations from dozens of boys from 12-20.  He gets punched out by another colleague who objects to the use of the term "whinging, attention-seeking scumbags" when describing the victims and their parents.  He knows what his friend has done, yet when the chance arrives to remove him from the vicinity of children, he supports an elderly … [Read more...]

A Union of One – Russian Footballers Union

  The original (shorter form) of this article appeared in print 06.06.16, this online edition includes relevant links. Some weeks ago the proverbial cat was put among the pigeons. As is known to anyone who can a) read English, b) watch Russian football or c) read the many reports from FIFPro on outrageous crimes against local footballers, all is not well with the wacky world of Russian football. Yet there is far more that goes on that the wider world and authorities don't know … [Read more...]

Zenit – Spartak: The Capital Calling

There are few cities more contradictory than St. Petersburg. Its uncanny likeness to a major European town – a product of the travels of its founder Peter I to the cities of Manchester and Leipzig to study their structures – seems to almost mock its status as the site of the Bolshevik October Revolution, the event that sheathed a Communist curtain between Russia and the west. Nevertheless St. Petersburg’s markedly severe 313-year history seems to seep through its glorious architecture and … [Read more...]

Nikolai Starostin: From Hero to Gulag and Back Again

This is the second and last part of Vincent Tanguy's mini series about Spartak founder and Soviet football legend Nikolai Starostin. You can read part one here.   One man was going to send the life of Nikolai Starostin, his brothers and all his relatives deep into the dark: Lavrenti Beria. A key figure of Soviet power from 1938 to 1953, this man born in Georgia remains sadly famous for his cruelty. In 1938, Stalin appointed him head of the NKVD, the secret Police of the Soviet … [Read more...]