Valery Karpin and that infamous day in the summer of 1990


“When I arrived there, the team was… they had escaped relegation in the last match of the previous season. It was unthinkable what we had done in five years. It was Celta’s golden era…”Valery Karpin (2015)

Valery Karpin joined Celta de Vigo back in 1997, three years after landing in Spain to play for Real Sociedad. An excellent second season at San Sebastian with Javier Irureta’s Sociedad side worked as a stepping stone for a somewhat unconvincing one-year adventure at Valencia before Karpin arrived in Balaídos in the summer of 1997.

It wasn’t, however, the first time the former Russia international came to close contact with Vigo. In 1990, Spartak Moscow had been invited to participate in the Trofeo Ciudad de Vigo along with Sevilla FC and the hosts Celta de Vigo. Valery Karpin and Aleksandr Mostovoi, who later turned out to become true heroes at the Galician outfit, were part of that Spartak Moscow team that won that tournament.

The first match took place on 24th August and Romantsev’s Spartak hammered a strong Sevilla side, with Zamorano and Bengoechea in the starting XI, by 5-2. Mostovoi opened the scoring for the Moscow outfit very early on and just two minutes later, Karpin doubled the score. The iconic Valery Shmarov netted the other three goals for Spartak, after Sevilla managed to level the scores on the 22nd minute.

Karpin, Mostovoi and Shalimov back in days with Spartak Moscow

Karpin, Mostovoi and Shalimov back in their days with Spartak Moscow

In the second match of the tournament, Celta de Vigo were defeated by Sevilla 2-0 and had to win the last match against Spartak in order to restore their dignity as the host team. The last clash of the Trofeo Ciudad de Vigo took place on 26th August and the home side started the match off on the right foot, after Francisco Ferrando opened the score for them on the 17th minute. Spartak bounced back and before the break, the inevitable Valery Shmarov leveled the score for the Russians. It was an intense match, but everything carried on normally until a massive brawl erupted near the sideline during the second-half. Karpin was trying the steal the ball from an opponent, when, all of a sudden, he lost his mind and kicked Celta’s player from behind. The Russian ace was immediately surrounded by Celta’s players, who pushed him and tried to punch him multiple times. Karpin went berserk and started to kick and punch every player dressed in blue that came his way. Mostovoi, who happened to be near Karpin when the brawl started, tried to calm things down, but ended up being punched by a Celta de Vigo player as well.

At the end of the day, Spartak Moscow won the tournament, but that sad episode lived on, especially in the supporters’ minds, for quite a long time. Things, however, change rapidly in football and in life and those two Russian players, who had been involved in a massive brawl at Los Balaídos in that summer of 1990, would turn out to be the star performers and standard bearers of a golden era for Celta de Vigo, when the Galician outfit strived both domestically and internationally, being on the verge of winning Copa del Rey, but being defeated 3-1 in the final by Real Zaragoza.

Karpin receiving instructions from Oleg Romantsev in the early 90s.

Karpin receiving instructions from Oleg Romantsev in the early 90s.

Karpin remained in Vigo until 2002 before he decided to rejoin Real Sociedad, leading the Txuriurdin to a fantastic campaign, during which they finished second in La Liga, two points behind the champions Real Madrid. The Estonian-born midfielder had, nevertheless, his entire life in Vigo and was even married to a local woman for quite some time. His daughter still lives in Vigo these days and Karpin visits the city regularly.

Vigo was and probably still is of major importance to Valery Karpin. Besides being a famous footballer, the former Russia international was also a proactive businessman, but he wasn’t as good in the business world as he was playing football. He had several distinct corporations in Vigo, but all of them went bankrupt.

After hanging his boots and after leaving behind some of his failed entrepreneurial incursions, Karpin had several stints as head coach, even in Spain, where he took the helm of RCD Mallorca back in 2014. Valery is now a TV commentator, but he doesn’t rule out the possibility of returning to the dugout, as he recently explained during an interview to the Spanish media; “At the moment, since I’m not working as a head coach, I’m collaborating with the media…however, one thing doesn’t rule out another”.

Author: Joel Amorim

From Porto, I started enjoying Soviet football at a very young age when I would watch Rinat Dasaev on TV, but it was probably Radchenko’s brace and Shmarov’s goal at the Santiago Bernabéu a quarter of a century ago that transformed me into an avid consumer of what was going on with the game throughout Eastern Europe. Punk rock fan and English teacher by day, football writer after the sun goes down.


  1. Fabio Ferreira de Macedo Santos says:

    excelente artigo do Joel Amorin , parabéns!

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