The FNL Cup – And Why It Matters

While fans back home shiver in temperatures well below freezing, the traditional winter break tournament featuring the majority of Russia’s second tier teams, the FNL Cup, kicked off today in the mild Cypriot sunshine. For most participants, it is their second or even third warm-weather training camp as they gear up towards the resumption of domestic league duty in March, and the 16-team event is ever so gradually edging into more than just a relaxing holiday. It is far from the finished … [Read more...]

Baltika Kaliningrad – The Western Outpost of Russian Football

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 … [Read more...]

Dinamo  – The footballing embodiment of Leningrad and St. Petersburg

Nobody would deny that current Russian Premier League champions Zenit St. Petersburg hold the football monopoly in Russia's second city but this has not the always been the case. However, before Zenit's first title win in 1984 under Pavel Sadyrin, Dinamo Leningrad, as they were then, were the most supported club in the city. Their story is a fascinating one that embodies the history of the great city they represent. St. Petersburg, the capital of the former Russian Empire, is the … [Read more...]

From Real Madrid to Yenisey – Juan Lescano

Do you ever have one of those days where you are browsing the football scores, or surfing through your favourite video game, and you come across a player and find yourself thinking: “wow, what a career this guy has had!” or “how have I never heard of this guy before?”. Well that’s what happened to me recently when I spotted the name Juan Eduardo Lescano on Football Manager 2016, plying his trade for FNL club Yenisey Krasnoyarsk. The first thought was, especially as a follower of Russian … [Read more...]

Financial Crisis at Volga Nizhny Novgorod Hits New Low

Volga Nizhny Novgorod have endured a couple of difficult years, after three seasons in the Russian Premier League they were relegated to the Russian First Division where they finished in a very disappointing 13th place in the 2014/15 season. However, the manager who came down with them, Andrei Talalaev, has started somewhat of a revival this season. They currently sit in 7th place, only four points away from the Promotion Play-Off places, and have the second best defensive record in the division … [Read more...]

Now or Never for Konstantin Bazelyuk

In December, 2013 the 20 year old CSKA Moscow striker Konstantin Bazelyuk won the Best Young Football Player in Russia award, as he went in the footsteps of teammates Igor Akinfeev, Alan Dzagoev and Georgy Schennikov who had all won the prize before him. The award came after the young striker got his break through for the Muscovites in the autumn, and in March, 2014 Bazelyuk was even called up as a part of Fabio Capello's provisional squad for Russia's friendly against Armenia in Krasnodar. Even … [Read more...]

Photo Report: Muscovite Derby in the Russian Cup

I am a big fan of the Grassroots Project, where the photographer Sergey Novikov travels across Russia to take pictures of the most beautiful stadiums and most infamous amateur football teams. One does however not necessarily have to travel long distances to find interesting football venues. Not with a capital like Moscow, a city that has an incredible diversity regarding the beautiful game. The city has lot of both professional and amateur clubs with their own stadiums spread out around the huge … [Read more...]

Andrei Panyukov – Determined to Prove Himself

  Nowadays we rarely see Russian footballers, with the exception of Spain-based Denis Cheryshev, perform well in foreign countries, and in that light it has been a delight to follow Andrei Panyukov in the Lithuanian A Lyga. Few people noticed when Panyukov moved to Lithaunian side Atlantas on loan from Dinamo Moscow in January, but he has quickly convinced everybody of his talent. In his first four games Panyukov scored no fewer than ten goals. Four of these came in his 5-1 … [Read more...]

Five Things We Learned From The Winter Break

1. Dzyuba Remains an Enigma to (Most) Coaches in Russia   After the diabolical showing in Brazil last summer, the real Russian sport of dishing out recriminations began. The common theme, not entirely unjustified, seemed to be that the players just didn't show enough desire, especially given the relatively unchallenging group. Fabio Capello has an excellent record as an international manager in qualifiers, but just doesn't seem able to inspire the cohesion necessary to take … [Read more...]

FNL Half Term Report

As the second tier closed up for winter at the weekend, there were some critical questions left unanswered. The first part of the league program has thrown up little surprise in the league table, with the possible early season form of Tosno, but the real problems lie off the field. Three years on from the highly controversial decision to alter the entire country's calendar to fit the European autumn-spring cycle and many clubs are finding life extremely difficult to sustain. Newly promoted … [Read more...]