Posts Tagged ‘Krasnodar’

Arsenal Tula v Krasnodar, Sunday 11th April 2021, 2pm

April 18, 2021

In the time that I’ve been out here I’ve limited my games to the Moscow area but this weekend there was a game in Tula which is about two and a quarter hours away if you take a reasonably speedy train. I’d booked rail tickets online for about a tenner each way and rocked up at Kurskaya station with around half an hour to spare.

It’s as well that I did leave plenty of time as the official checking everyone’s documents wouldn’t let me board. When she realized that we didn’t have a common language she summoned a colleague.  He was able to explain that my ticket didn’t show my passport number and so he would have to scan the photo page and issue a supplement. Two quid and a receipt later they waved me on to the train.

My carriage was full with the mask wearing contingent comprising of around half of the occupants. I’ve been vaccinated so I’m not too concerned but I doubt many of my fellow travellers had gotten around to having their jabs yet.

It took a while to pass through the suburbs and I spent the first hour looking at lockups, garages and industrial units. There was the usual crap graffiti that seems compulsory next to railway lines and more stray dogs than I’ve seen elsewhere in the whole time I’ve been in Moscow.

As we moved further out of the city there were occasional villages, one with a cemetery that must have been a mile long. The wooden crosses at the new end were almost all accompanied by flowers whilst the older graves were partly hidden within a wood. I suppose they gradually blend in until they are absorbed back into the undergrowth.

I arrived at Tula with two and a half hours to spare to kick-off. The attendant who had initially prevented me boarding very kindly made a point of letting me know that I’d reached my stop. I suspect that she thought anyone incapable of bringing a valid ticket was unlikely to be bright enough to know where he was.

There were a couple of Krasnodar fans getting off with me and they photographed themselves next to the statues at the station.

With plenty of time in hand I walked to the Arsenal Stadium. It should have taken an hour, but I found a long-cut through a park that made the walk more scenic than it would have been. I stopped to photograph a squirrel and then watched as an old lady enticed it down the tree trunk to take a hazelnut from her hand. I resolved never again to go to a park without a handful of nuts.

It was a pleasant day and I took the opportunity to sit on a bench in the sun and give my Mam a video call. It’s not often she gets to have a nose around a Russian park by proxy so it made a bit of a change for her.

I could see the floodlights before I left the park and before long there was a steady stream of fans making their way to the ground.

I was searched and had my 650 ruble ticket initially checked at a main entrance. Inside there were food stalls, programme sellers and a band playing. I only caught the tail end of what turned out to be their last song, but even from that limited performance I got the impression that the singer hadn’t done much performing previously. It’s possible that he might have been someone who was famous for something other than singing, maybe a past player, or even a competition winner or karaoke participant.

Once into the main ground I was searched again and made my way up to my seat in row twenty, the back row. It was close enough to the pitch to give me a decent elevated view, but was spoilt somewhat by the design of the roof which had placed the stanchions in row 16. I could see both goals but there was a mid-pitch section where the action would remain a mystery.

My section continued to fill up even after kick-off and I realized that I was in the home singing section. Fortunately the fans who chose to stand were in the block to my right, but I was close enough to the drums to make me wish that I was on the opposite side of the ground.

Tula were togged up in what I always consider to be Melchester Rovers colours with Krasnodar in white. The two lads at the station had green scarves so presumably white was their away kit.

There wasn’t a lot of action in the first half. In fact I’m not sure that there were any shots on target that troubled either keeper.

Second half I moved to the other end of the stand. It was a lot quieter there and I was able to maintain a distance from everyone else that I felt comfortable with.

My move also enabled me to observe the away fans to my left. They were required, as is the custom in Russian grounds, to watch the match through a fence. I’ve not seen any trouble yet at any game that I’ve been to so it all seemed quite unnecessary to me.

The Krasnodar supporters were quieter than the home fans too, so I readily warmed to them.

There was finally a bit of attacking intent just after the hour when a home player flicked the ball up and volleyed it in from twenty-five yards. It was a moment of skill that was worth a two hour plus journey, although maybe the lads behind the fence to my left might not have felt the same about it.

Nobody else came close to scoring and Tula took the points to ease their relegation fears. I successfully caught a cab back to the station and by virtue of my seat on the same side of the train got a repeat viewing of the cemetery, graffiti and stray dogs that I‘d looked out at a few hours earlier.

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.