Posts Tagged ‘Igor Netto’

Spartak Moscow v Krasnodar, Monday 9th March 2020, 4.30pm

April 20, 2020

Just before Christmas I accepted a job based in Moscow. I went out there for a short trip in December and then started properly after the Russian New Year in January. It had been a long time since I’d visited Moscow, thirty-three years in fact. On that occasion in 1986 I’d gone for a December weekend with a girl that I was trying to impress.

A lot had changed in that time. For a start, the GUM department store next to Red Square was selling Ferraris and Louis Vuitton handbags. The last time I’d been there it was all knock-off ‘Adidas’ tracksuits with just the two stripes.

Jen and I are living out in the suburbs for the simple reason that being able to walk to work beats using public transport or taxis every day. I can even pop home for my lunch. The Moscow winter was milder than I or any of my local colleagues had been expecting with occasional snow and sub-zero temperatures, but nothing like most previous years or the minus twenty-five that I’d encountered a few years ago in Kazakhstan.

Whilst the winter had been relatively mild, it still meant that there was no football. Up until relatively recently football in Russia was a summer game with matches taking place between March and November.  A few years back they changed things to align their season with most of the rest of Europe, but with the severe weather still preventing games from taking place between mid-December and March that time of year is now set aside for a winter break rather than the close season.

The winter break meant that for the first two months that we were here I just had to wait it out. I looked at the option of going to the Ice Hockey, but the 2019 season in that sport was drawing to a close and I thought I’d save that until next winter. Once the winter break was over I selected a Spartak Moscow game taking place on a public holiday as my introduction to the Russian Premier League.

Jen and I took the subway up to Spartak’s Otkrytiye Stadium just before lunch. It was easy enough, with just the one change of line as we travelled from a south western suburb to one at the north west of the city. The hour long journey cost us around forty pence each. There were a few people at the stadium when we arrived and also some local coppers keeping an eye on us.

I’d wanted to be there early so that we could sort tickets before the arrival of the match day crowd and we selected seats in the upper tier along the side for 1800 rubles a pop. At the current exchange rate of a very convenient one hundred rubles to the pound that’s around eighteen quid each.

With our tickets in hand we back tracked one stop on the Metro, also forty pence, had some lunch in the food court of a shopping mall next to the station and then went for a walk in a nearby park.  I discovered that Russian squirrels look a bit different to the ones in the UK. They are darker than the grey squirrels that we have and seem to be more in the shape of the red ones. They have bigger ears though. I only had my phone with me so the photo isn’t the best.

There wasn’t much else in the way of wildlife in the park, but we did stumble across a woman taking her cat for a walk. Or rather, she was doing the walking whilst the cat perched on her shoulder. When the time comes for the cat to ‘cross the rainbow bridge’ as pet deaths tend to be described these days, she should have the cat made into a stole and life, for her anyway, would be little different.

We headed back up to the Otkrytiye Stadium with plenty of time to spare. By now the area around the ground was a lot busier. There were more police than earlier and a few small concessions selling scarves or food and drink. Our tickets were for the far side so we did a lap of around three-quarters of the stadium before having our tickets scanned at the turnstile.

You might remember the Otkrytiye stadium from the last World Cup. It’s the ground where England played Columbia and went through on penalties. It was also the venue for the group game between Belgium and Tunisia that Paul and I had watched in a Fan Park in Saint Petersburg.

Once inside we noticed a tribute to Igor Netto. He was a former captain of Spartak and the Soviet Union, playing for the former for seventeen years. Netto had also found time to turn out for the Spartak ice hockey team too. He died around twenty years ago, but the display celebrated what would have been his ninetieth birthday.

We took our seats high along the side facing the tunnel and what looked to be an almost entire stand of media facilities and hospitality. I suppose with the stadium having been built shortly before the 2018 World Cup, there was always going to be plenty of provision for that sort of thing within the forty-four thousand capacity.  There are a lot of rich people in Moscow, but there didn’t seem to be much of a take up of the two hundred quid ‘Platinum’ seats opposite.

Before kick-off there was a further tribute to Mr. Netto with a huge banner to our right and his son and, I think, great grandson coming onto the pitch. I like sentimentality in football, I think it is has just as much a place in the game as winning trophies does.  Although as a Boro fan, you’d probably expect me to say that.

Once the home fans had put away their Netto display, they got out their normal match day flags and banners. There must have been around thirty flags, all waved non-stop throughout the game and accompanied by constant singing.

In the corner to our left were a couple of hundred Krasnodar fans. It’s probable that some of them will have been living in Moscow, but for those that had travelled from their home town, it was around sixteen hours drive each way.

Krasnodar were in black and third from top whilst Spartak were somewhere in mid-table. On the plus side though, they were wearing shirts that weren’t too far off being classic Boro tops. I may have just found my Moscow team.

There weren’t many chances in the first half for either side. Spartak had some decent build up play but weren’t clinical enough whenever they made it into the box.

At half time I went down for a tea and a hot dog. The beer of choice was Budweiser, but the American version rather than that from the Czech Republic. That made it easy to pass on it even before I noticed that it was zero percent alcohol, although I’m not sure it would have tasted a lot different from their regular version.

In the second half, the visitors missed a couple of sitters before a slick passing move twenty minutes from time gave them a man over and they drew the foul for a penalty. Ari converted to give them the lead. The goal opened the game up and a second for Krasnodar looked likely. It still hadn’t materialised by the time we decided to leg it with five minutes to go to avoid the subway crush and that’s the way it stayed.

The game took place straight after the weekend when most teams in England played their final game for a while. There was one more round of fixtures over here, which I kept away from, before all Russian football was shut down until further notice.