Zvyagino Pushkino v Saturn Ramenskol 2, Saturday 26th June 2021, 5pm

It has been ridiculously hot in Moscow lately and as I’d made my way back to our apartment on the Saturday lunchtime the thermometer on the side of the building was indicating that it was 37 degrees. It felt hotter.

The temperature had been sufficient for me to rule out any of the games listed to kick-off at noon and instead I selected one with a five o’clock start and with photos of covered stands on the home website. The game was at the Torpedo Stadium at Mytishi, which is a little out of town to the north east of Moscow.

We arrived a good fifteen minutes before the scheduled start despite having to travel through central Moscow. The fixture was in the fourth-tier Moskovskaya Oblast Liga A, which I always think of as being for teams on the outskirts of Moscow, although it seems odd to group the central teams together and then put all those on the edges in their own separate league. Maybe North and South would be a better way of grouping them.

The kick-off times at this level seem fairly flexible and it was seven minutes past five when the teams made their way on to the pitch. Hosts Zvyagino Pushkino were in a terrible combination of luminous green shirts with grey shorts and socks. Visitors Saturn Ramenskol 2 had a more acceptable blue and black kit.

Despite the delay to the kick-off it was mainly wives and girlfriends that made up the crowd. There were a few people sat around the edges on benches but many of them looked to be grandparents carrying out childcare duties and I suspect most of them had no prior knowledge that a match was taking place.

Zvyagino opened the scoring nine minutes in. I missed it as I’d been watching a bloke doing Olga Korbet impressions on some parallel bars behind the goal. Maybe everyone else had been looking his way too as there were no cheers. It was only as I saw the teams heading back for the restart that I realized someone had scored.

The pitch was grass which is increasingly rare at this level. It wasn’t the snooker table surface that you see at the top level but had enough undulation for the ball to bobble around when passed along the ground. Clumps of clover and a flock of birds picking for worms on the edge of the penalty box added to the charm.

In addition to the covered stand that we were sat in behind the dugouts there were two covered stands opposite, also with five rows of seating.

On the hour Zvyagino doubled their lead with a shot from outside the box where the bounce beat the keeper and went in off the post. Again, nobody raised a cheer. Not even the home wags, although most of them were looking at their phones.  Ten minutes later Saturn pulled one back and we got a few shouts and some applause, although it may have come from their own bench.

It got a bit lively in the final moments, with Zvyagino intent on scoring a third when I’d have thought they might have been better running down the clock. I was half expecting them to be punished for their efforts but with the last kick of the game they restored their two-goal advantage for a three-one win.

The win moved Zvyagino up to sixth in the table whilst Saturn remain rock bottom having failed to pick up a point from any of their twelve games to date this season. A quick check revealed that the last time that they won a game was back in September 2019. It was a different world back then.

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