Comrade Yakov Iordanov: Spartak Moscow’s Lone Englishman?

Yakov Eordahnov, seemingly a typically Russian name, right? Not quite. In reality, this was James Riordan, the former professor of Russian Studies at the University of Surrey who led a rather interesting life as an academic, celebrity, class fighter and spy. But he was also the only ever Englishman to play for Spartak Moscow. At least according to Riordan himself. Many, including official Spartak club historians, have cast a doubt over his story's provenance.   Riordan's … [Read more...]

Revolutionary Origins in Pre-Revolutionary Russia: the development of football in the Tsarist Empire

24 October 2017 marks the 120th anniversary of the first ever official football match played in Russia, a game between the Saint Petersburg Circle of Sports Lovers (SPb KLS) and the Vasileostrovsky Football Society. It was played out on parade ground of the First Military Academy, on the grounds of the Peter and Paul Fortress. This match is commonly regarded as the birth of Russian football. Although the first organised national division wasn’t formed until 1923, and the Soviet National team did … [Read more...]

Nikita Simonyan: How the son of an Armenian illegal immigrant became the ‘Grandfather of Russian Football’

245 matches, 160 goals, 0 yellow card and 0 red cards. These statistics are but a microcosm of Nikita Pavlovich Simonyan’s career for Spartak Moscow. Simonyan was as a player, manager, club ambassador and, above all else, still is a keen supporter of Spartak Moscow, and throughout this time has acted as a humble sportsman, functionary and gentleman. Upon celebrating his 90th birthday last season, the club hosted him as a honoured guest and invited him onto the pitch before the match with FC … [Read more...]

Most Decorated Players of Soviet and Russian League Football

After a previous article exploring the "Soviet Champions, too" (players who played just one game in a season in which their team won the league), it's only logical to show the polar opposite: The most decorated players of Soviet and Russian football. READ MORE: "I was a Soviet Champion, too!" For this, I devised a numerical formula. Each trophy is worth a specific amount of points (league title - 50, European cup - 40, Soviet/Russian cup - 25, European Supercup - 10, Russian Supercup - 5). … [Read more...]

Interview with Maksym Kalynychenko, Part Two: The FNL, Spartak under Oleg Romantsev, and more.

Maksym Kalynychenko, who played for Spartak Moscow from 2000-2008 sat down with Alexey Spektrowski in collaboration with our friends over at ProSpartak. Here we present Part Two of the interview in English, where the pair discusses the state of the FNL and Maksym's experiences of traveling throughout Russia, Soviet Football including the work and life of Nikolai Starostin and Oleg Romantsev's dominant Spartak Moscow side in the 1990s. Make sure to read Part One first, … [Read more...]

Teams that thrashed incumbent Soviet/Russian champions

After Zenit St. Petersburg soundly beat Spartak Moscow 5-1 last weekend, I did some research to look for other teams who managed to beat the reigning Soviet or Russian champions with three goals or more. Turns out, it was Zenit's third such win after 1958 (Dinamo Moscow) and 1971 (CSKA Moscow) and the 36th "champion-thrashing" overall. Spartak Moscow are now clean first on the overall list, having suffered through eight crushing defeats; they overtook Dinamo Moscow, who have seven such defeats, … [Read more...]

Russia and the Cursed Group Stage

Come Saturday evening it was clear. After losing 2-1 at home in Kazan to Mexico, the group stage had once again been the last stop for Russia at an international tournament. The group stage is slowly turning into somewhat of a curse for Sbornaya, and not even the home field advantage could break this spell. In fact, since Russia participated for the first time in an international tournament under its own flag at the World Cup in 1994, it has only managed to advance from the group once, back … [Read more...]

Nikolai Sokolov – The Founder of Russian Goalkeeping

Lev Yashin is considered perhaps the best to ever play football, but even before him, the Soviet Union has had a long line of great goalkeepers. One of these is Nikolai Sokolov, who both Nikolai Starostin in Football Stars and Anatoly Akimov in The Goalkeeper and his Role in the Team name as the founder of the Soviet goalkeeping school, which later gave birth to Yashin, Rinat Dasaev and many others. Sokolov was born in Moscow on May 12, 1897. At this time, football wasn’t a sport for Russians … [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...]

Timeline of the Renaming of Russian Top Flight Clubs

The Soviet football system was very dissimilar to the Western system. In the early 1920s, all pre-revolutionary football clubs were dissolved; some of them were basically reformed under new names, after moving their "franchise" (football team) to some other location, some were created anew. There were no "football clubs" per se in the Soviet Union - officially, all football teams belonged to some "voluntary sports society" or the other, which was reflected in their names. Here's an incomplete … [Read more...]