World Cup 2018 City Guide: Kazan

Kazan at a glance
Population: 1.2m
Stadium: Kazan Arena
Number of matches: 6

Iran – Spain
France – Australia
South Korea – Germany
Poland – Colombia
C1 – D2 (Round of 16)
E1/F2 – G1/H2 (Quarter Final)

Kazan is Russia’s self-described “third city” and capital of Russian sport. Captial of the Republic of Tatarstan, and with an estimated population of over 1.2 million people, it’s Russia’s 6th largest city and lies around 800km east of Moscow. A cultural melting pot, Kazan see’s large populations of Christians and Muslims living together in peace, as the city is home to Russians and Tatars.

 

The World Cup Stadium

Kazan Arena

In 2014, Rubin moved into the host stadium for the tournament, the majestic Kazan Arena. Having played at the open Central Stadium on the banks of the Volga River for most of their history, Rubin took to their new stadium well, and went unbeaten their for the first seven league matches, and filled the stands for the big matches against the Moscow sides, or during their Europa League run that year when Liverpool visited, but nowadays Rubin have the lowest % of attendance in league, relative to potential attendance, and despite having a capacity of 40,000+, in the depths of winter, less than 3,000 fans make the trip to watch their team.

Kazan Arena. Photo: Andrew Wiese/RFN

Kazan’s History

Estimated to be up to 900 years old, Kazan’s history is tumultuous and is perhaps most famously remembered for the Siege of Kazan in 1552 by the notorious Ivan the Terrible, in which almost the entire population of the city was killed. In more modern times, the city has flourished since the fall of the USSR and has grown steadily in population and draw to tourists. Its goal to be the sporting capital of Russia has been recognised internationally, and it hosted the 2013 Summer Universiade, the 2014 World Fencing Championships, the 2015 FINA World Aquatics Championships, as well as being selected as a host city in the Confederations Cup and World Cup.

 

Football in Kazan

The city’s only professional football side is Rubin Kazan, founded in 1958 under the name “Iskra”, Rubin were first promoted to the Russian Premier League in 2003 under the management of Kurban Berdyev. The Turkmen would go on to lead Rubin to two Premier League titles in 2008 and 2009, as well as a number of famous results in European competitions, notably their 2-1 win against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in 2009. However, since 2011, they’ve had somewhat of a downward spiral, and have finished in the bottom half of the league in three of the last four seasons.

In 2016, Rubin appointed Spaniard Javi Gracia as manager, their first non-Soviet manager ever, and spent €40m on players from around Europe. Despite Gracia being sacked after just one season in charge, Rubin’s squad now boasts a number of familiar names to English fans, with former Arsenal midfielder Alex Song, former Sunderland midfielder Yann M’Vila and former Blackburn forward Ruben Rochina, as well as Iran’s star striker, 22-year-old Sardar Azmoun, but despite this talented squad, and the return of the aforementioned Berdyev as manager, Rubin continues to struggle in the league, and lie just above the relegation play-offs as the RFPL enters the winter break.

 

What to do in Kazan

Kazan has plenty to offer outside of football, and it’s location and climate at the time of year of the tournament make it a pleasant place to visit, with temperatures of between 23 and 25 degrees on average, but with peaks well into the 30’s. Sat on the confluence of the Kazanka and Volga rivers, Kazan has a number of beaches, some set in lakes to the north of the city – Lake Lebyazhye and Blue Lake, and some on the rivers themselves. There is the Riviera Complex, a water park with indoor and outdoor facilities, including their own beach, but if the weather is good and you are looking for a beach on the river, the Nizhnee Zarechye beach, north of the Kazanka River is the best bet.

Located just next to the Kyrlay Amusement Park, north of the central of the three bridges which connect north and south Kazan, the Nizhnee Zarechye beach is tucked into the Kazanka Riverside, offering great views back across to the Kazan Kremlin, and if the weather is good, is a perfect location to chill out before heading to the Kazan Arena, which is just a 10 minute drive away to the East. The other side of the bridge is the Chasha, a large chalice shaped building set in a large open park right on the banks of the Kazanka. The building is used for weddings but has an observation platform offering stunning views of the city, and the grounds it is set in is where the Fan Zone will be during the tournament, around 35 minutes walk from the Kazan Arena.

The Chasha in Kazan, location for the Kazan Fan Zone. Photo: Murdic

One of the most popular parts of the city during the Confederations Cup was Baumann Street, in the south of the city, along open street packed with bars and cafes, and decorated with monuments. Among them you can find a monument to the Kazan Cat, revered after 30 were taken to St Petersburg in the 1700’s to deal with a rodent problem for Empress Ekaterina. You can also find a replica of a carriage owned by Catherine The Great, after the inspired residents of the city to improve it after a visit from her in 1767. The many bars proved popular with fans during the warm-up tournament, and Mexicans and Chileans partied here with locals on the days of their matches.

At the far north of Baumann Street, and off to the left, you will find Kazan’s most famous attraction, the Kazan Kremlin, or Qulsharif Mosque. A striking combination of blue and white, the mosque is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and for fans who were lucky enough to have watched a Rubin Kazan match at their old Central Stadium, they would have noticed it in the background, as it sits just over the road from it. The Kremlin is a must visit for any tourist, but as it is a mosque, fans must be respectful and abide by the rules so as not to offend anyone.

The Rubin Kazan club store is currently based in the Central Stadium but may be relocated to Baumann Street during the tournament, so if you ware looking to pick up any souvenirs, they’ll have you covered.

The Kazan Kremlin as seen from the north of the Kazanka River. Photo: A.Savin

The city has a number of parks and open areas for visitors to enjoy the sun. The two most famous parks are Black Lake Park in the south of the city, not far from Baumann Street, and Gorky Park, just south of the Millennium Bridge which leads to the Kazan Arena. Aside from this, there is the Kazan Embankment. Set on the south bank of the Kazanka, not far from the Kazan Kremlin, this long promenade is well presented and dotted with restaurants, cafes and play areas, as well as the capability to rent bicycles. The area is popular with the Rubin Kazan players, and the restaurants here are often used when the club meets with potential signings.

In terms of styles of restaurants and local specialities, there are lots of Uzbek and Tatar restaurants, and local Tatar delicacies include:

  • Chak-Chak – a deep-fried pastry coated in honey, there is an eponymous cafe on Baumann Street.
  • Echpochmak – a pyramid-shaped pastry filled with minced meat and vegetables.
  • Qistibi – a roasted flatbread filled with meat and vegetables.

All of which will be plentiful throughout the city.

If you have any questions about Kazan or the World Cup, feel free to contact us on Twitter (@Rusfootballnews), on Facebook or simply leave a comment beneath this article, and we’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.

Co-Authored between David Sansun and Kazan native Andrey Martynov. You can follow Andrey on Twitter @martandse.

Author: David Sansun

Arsenal and Rubin Kazan fan. Possibly too optimistic for Russian football which means I’m left disappointed a lot.

Comments

  1. Vitaly Chernyshev says:

    great read and all 3 dish recommendations are childhood favorites 🙂

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