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...]

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...]

The Russian Revolution at Sarrià

The 1991-92 campaign certainly causes mixed feelings to RCD Espanyol supporters. The departure of Head Coach Luís Aragonés at the end of the previous season had left “Los Pericos” adrift in their own sea of madness and the club’s board ended up deciding to bring in Ljubomir Petrovic as his replacement. “Ljupko” Petrovic arrived in Spain with an European Cup in his trophy cabinet after leading FK Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade) to glory a few months before in Bari (Italy) against the … [Read more...]

VVS MVO Moscow, Vasily Stalin’s toy

VVS MVO Moscow is not a club name that many will recognize, and the acronym doesn’t reveal much about the club either. Nevertheless, it is a club with a short but interesting history. VVS MVO Moscow, a sports society VVS MVO Moscow was a sports club based in Moscow. The name was short for Voenno Vozdushnye Sily Moskovskogo Voïennogo Okrouga (Военно-воздушные Силы Московского военного округа), which means 'Club of the Air Force of the Military Region of Moscow'. It was founded in 1944 on … [Read more...]

Sbornaya’s Golden Generation and the 1960 European Nations Cup

Igor Netto, Valentin Ivanov, Viktor Ponedelnik and Lev Yashin. The ‘brilliant quartet’ who emphatically led the Soviet Union to the inaugural European Nations’ Cup trophy. Earned after 120 minutes of attrition against a stubborn Yugoslavia side, they were eventually victorious in the final, winning 2-1 through goals from Slava Metreveli and Ponedelnik. The Golden Generation Netto was an accomplished leader with excellent technical ability, much of which he attributed to the style of … [Read more...]

Rinat Dasaev’s dark days at the Nervión

“Había más de 3.000 personas en el aeropuerto. Salí del avión y no sabía lo que me iba a encontrar. Estaba nervioso, lo tengo que reconocer. Llegaba a un país muy distinto al nuestro, otro idioma, otra vida… ¡Qué difícil fue para mí! Me costó por lo menos un año adaptarme.” (There were more than 3000 people at the airport. I left the plane without knowing what was expected of me. I was nervous, I admit to that. I was arriving at a completely different country, a different language, a different … [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...]

USSR – Yugoslavia, the Story of Two Different Football Conceptions

Yugoslavia, the now extinct country, is still a favourite topic among historians. Some describe its positive sides, while others point to the negative impact it had on society, culture and sports. One thing is however certain; it was in many ways a unique country. History has taught us that all countries have a lifespan, just like any other living organism. They are born, but after some time they also die. Yugoslavia sought to enclose all South-Slavic people into one nation, and in doing so the … [Read more...]

Pinochet’s Coup d’État and How the Soviet Union Missed the 1974 World Cup

Despite winning the first edition of the European Championships in 1960, the Soviet Union’s national football team never did well on the biggest stage during the 1960s. The side took part in the World Cup for the first time in 1958, where they reached the quarterfinal, and between the debut and the tournament in Mexico in 1970 the Soviet qualified all four times, but the best result was a fourth place in 1966. In the semifinal, the Soviet side lost 2-1 to West Germany, a score that was repeated … [Read more...]