Chertanovo Women v Yenisey Women, Saturday 22nd May 2021, 4pm

This game came about through the new ground-hopping app which surprisingly revealed that there was a football ground with a match scheduled no more than four kilometres from our apartment.  I think the reason that I hadn’t twigged before is that it was Chertanovo women. I’ve seen their men’s team play a couple of times at Sportivny Gorodok in Luzhniki park and I suppose I had just assumed that the women would play at the same ground.

With the ground being so close it made sense to walk it, particularly as we could follow a route that took us through Serebryanyye Rodniki. I’m always amazed by how many areas of parkland or forest are within the Moscow area. Although I was the same about London when I lived there thirty-five years ago.

Serebryanyye Rodniki didn’t have much wildlife. I caught a glimpse of a squirrel heading up a tree a fair distance ahead and there were a few interesting looking birds, but the combination of the camera auto-focusing on nearby branches and my shaky hands meant that any photos were invariably too blurry to use.

There were plenty of dogs though, mostly on leads. I understood why when we spotted the ‘lost dog’ posters. Perhaps the lure of the forest was too much for them.

We spent a couple of hours walking through the woods. It was longer than I’d planned as I misread the directions on my phone and at the time when we should have been heading for the ground I was confidently striding out in the opposite direction.

One of the things that are fairly common in Moscow parks are home-made bird feeders. Some of them look like school projects and probably won’t last the week but others are more substantial. The squirrels probably have a circuit established for nipping in and scoffing whatever has been left inside.

We arrived at the Chertanovo Arena bang on time for kick-off but were delayed a few minutes by the temperature check, airline-style scanning, pat down and the insistence that we swig the cans of coke that we had with us before going in. It all seemed well over the top to me. I’m not sure what trouble there has been in the Women’s Supreme Division in the past but I doubt that a middle-aged couple would pose much of a threat.

Once inside we found seats in the only available stand which was opposite the dugouts. A further security measure required that we watch the game through netting and with posts and hoardings further restricting the view.

We sat at the back of the three rows of seats in the stand temporarily managing to keep out of the sun. As the half progressed and the sun got lower we found ourselves squinting and the view deteriorating by the minute.

Home side Chertanovo were taking on Yenisey. We’d seen the visitors get a pasting from CSKA last month and on that occasion they’d played in white. This time they had red kit with Chertanovo playing in white.

There were about sixty spectators including a dozen or so making a racket in support of the home side. The drummer missed a beat on one occasion to whack the bloke next to him. I presume it was to encourage him to sing.

Yenisey took an early lead and played some good, fast-passing football. Chertanovo equalized with a shot that went through the visiting keepers legs. I know that commenting on the poor quality of keepers in the women’s game is a bit of a lazy cliché but the Yenisey goalie looked dodgy the last time I saw her and she was equally at sea in this game missing crosses, clattering defenders and generally causing jitters whenever she was called upon. A bit like me when I played. I don’t see her lasting long at this level.

It was one each at the break and with the sun shining directly into our eyes I had little appetite for viewing the remaining 45 minutes. We negotiated security for the second time and caught a cab into town for our tea at a Korean barbecue place. A check the next morning revealed that Yenisey took the points with a 3-2 win.

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