Posts Tagged ‘Russian Football’

Sochi v Rotor Volgograd, Friday 7th May 2021, 8pm

May 18, 2021

Sochi is somewhere that a few of my colleagues have visited for a holiday. As a seaside resort it didn’t really have much appeal to me until I realized that I could combine a weekend away with a trip to a match. I wonder if that was part of the thinking of the old Soviet leaders when they would visit their summer dachas there and dip their feet in the Black sea. In the souvenir shop windows there were miniature busts of Stalin. It’s hard to imagine seeing similar ones in Cambodia for the likes of Pol Pot.

Despot tat aside Sochi was well worth a visit. It’s a two and a quarter hour flight from Moscow and Jen and I had a hotel at the beach where we were able to take our pick of the bars and restaurants that stretched out for a mile or two in each direction.

The game was at the Fisht stadium. It had been built for the 2014 Winter Olympics and at that time it had a fully enclosed roof. It was modified for the 2018 World Cup with a section of roof being cut away to make it open to the air. We’d bought tickets in advance for 1500 rubles, which is quite expensive for Russia, but I could probably have got cheaper ones if I’d selected seats at the end.

Our taxi dropped us off with more than an hour to go to the 8pm kick-off and so we went for our tea in a restaurant within a fairground nearby. You could see the stadium from there.

Whilst I’d read that the stadium design was meant to be based upon snow-topped mountains it looked more like a jellyfish to me. With the Black Sea shores nearby that seemed highly appropriate too. The stadium lighting changed colour frequently which again seemed right for a jelly fish theme although I haven’t the foggiest if jellyfish do change colour. It seems like something that they would do but I’m no marine biologist.

Incidentally, I had bathroom lighting that changed colour like that about fifteen years ago. It was like having a bath in a seventies nightclub. There was an mp3 player built into the bath as well so that I could add the appropriate music if I wanted. I really cannot imagine what possessed me to agree to that whilst in the bathroom shop. I can only put it down to the fact that I was a dickhead in those days. Although no matter what point in life I’m at if I look back x number of years I always think what a dickhead I was in those days. Whilst I’m currently sure that my dickhead days are behind me I expect that in ten years time I’ll look back to now and conclude that I was a dickhead in 2021 as well.

We had quite good seats for this game, although at fifteen quid they should have been. They were midway between the penalty box and the half-way line and fifteen rows up if the first tier. We had some Rotor fans above us with the singing Sochi fans to our left. There were also lots of small children present but with it being a Friday night it was an ideal time for them to be staying up late.

Sochi were in white with Rotor in blue and with two games of the season to go Sochi were fighting for a European spot. They were in fifth place but a point would take them back into the top four as this was the first of the weekend games. A win was vital though to their chances. Rotor were third bottom and looking to try and avoid slipping into the bottom two relegation spots.

Sochi thought that they had opened the scoring after about five mins, but with the teams lined up ready to restart the ref was still stood waiting with his finger to his earphone awaiting the VAR decision. No goal – offside. A couple of minutes later we had the same scenario after the ball had been bundled into the net and the keeper clattered by either a striker or his own defender.  This time it counted and Sochi were one up.

As a fan I hate VAR. I want to be able to celebrate a Boro goal after no more than a quick glance at the lino. Although I’m more tolerant of it if it succeeds in chalking off a goal against us. As a neutral I quite like it. There’s the initial fun of watching people celebrate until the VAR sign goes up to toy with their emotions. Then the brief pause and if you are lucky you get a ref sheepishly recalling someone he has sent off from halfway down the tunnel.

Both teams created a lot but were struggling to finish. Rotor equalized on the half hour with what looked like a goal from nothing, so much so that sensing no threat I’d briefly glanced away to check out the altercation between the steward charged with enforcing the mask wearing and an old bloke who insisted that covering his chin was sufficient. From the reaction of the Rotor team the goal must have been a bit special.

At half time I had a wander, the queues for the food and drinks were long enough for me not to bother but I was able to get a photo from behind the goal. In the second half both teams had their chances. As time went on it was clear that Rotor were settling for the draw with plenty of time wasting.

Temperatures dropped a bit in the second half and as it had been too hot earlier to bring coats I wondered if we would last until the end. At eighty minutes I was tempted to clear off but suspected that there was drama to come. There was. In added time a Sochi player shot through a crowded box to angle the ball in to the corner. His team mates celebrated by diving on top of him in a way that it wouldn’t surprise me if that was his season done.

I felt sorry for Rotor. They deserved a point but that’s how it goes in a relegation battle. Sochi moved temporarily into third whilst they waited for their rivals to play their own penultimate games.

Spartak Moscow 2 v Tekstilshchik Ivanovo, Sunday 28th March 2021, 2pm

April 4, 2021

I’d had this ground on my list of potential places to see a game for a while. It’s pitch 4 at the Spartak Academy and I’ve previously seen it listed as hosting Spartak Youth and Women’s games. I’d even had a wander along to it a few months ago when visiting Sokolniki Park to check that it really did exist, so I suppose you could say that I’d done my homework.

I retraced my route from the park for this visit, pausing for a bonus youth game at Pitch 1 before rocking up just over an hour early. A friendly English-speaking steward pointed out the ticket office a little further down the hill and even told me which stand to ask for if I was not a fan of either team.

The woman in the ticket office found it quite amusing that someone who didn’t speak any Russian would want a ticket for a reserve team game in the middle of nowhere. Although not as amusing as when I tried to pass a thousand ruble note through to her to pay for a ticket that turned out to be free.

Ticket in hand I returned to the entrance gate where the metal scanner and the pat down search failed to discover the SLR camera in my coat outer pocket. Therefore if you inadvertently turn up at the game with a chainsaw in your handbag or a dozen rare turtle eggs strapped to your shins, I’d recommend using Gate A.

The steward told me that there were only two rules, ‘wear your mask and keep your distance from other spectators’. I like rules like those.

My ticket was in block A2 which was along the side with the dugouts. Four out of every five seats were taped off to make it easier for people to follow rule two, although as kick-off approached the later arrivals tended to ignore the tape. The stewards enforced a one seat gap between people and spent a disproportionate amount of their time reiterating rule one to those who were wearing their mask beneath their chin.

Stand B was behind the goal to my left and contained the Spartak fans. They sang for most of the time and even got the odd ‘call and response’ chant going with the people near me.

There were around twenty or so fans in the seats opposite me supporting Tekstilshchik Ivanovo. They too did their share of singing, but the most notable element of their support was the banner showing a skull in a top hat. I’ve no idea at all what it was meant to signify, but it’s a good look for a skull.

Ivanovo is a city around five hours drive north of Moscow, so I imagine a few of the visiting fans were based in the capital. As I run out of local new grounds Ivanovo might make for a realistic option as I cast my net a little wider, particularly if there is a convenient train service.

Spartak were in their usual Boro tops, whilst the visitors were in a strange black and grey combination, that if the grey bits hadn’t been stripes I’d have assumed was due to the kitman mistakenly putting them through a boil wash. Neither side gave their fans anything to sing about in the first half and I think there was half an hour gone before we witnessed a shot on target.

At half time I stretched my legs behind the stand before taking a seat at the other end when play restarted. There were fewer people in that section and I was able to keep a greater distance between myself and everyone else.

Spartak opened the scoring on the hour with a good finish before letting Tekstilshchik back into the game a few minutes later with a defensive mix-up. There were a lot of cynical fouls that earned yellows and a couple of tackles that I thought warranted reds as the game became increasingly ill-tempered.

Both sides had their chances at the death but failed to take them. The Spartak players slumped to the floor at the final whistle as if they had just been knocked out of a cup or suffered a relegation rather than drawn a meaningless mid-table fixture against a side one place above them. Maybe the academy does sessions on looking like you care.

Chertanovo Moscow v Tekstilshchik, Saturday 5th September 2020, 3pm

September 19, 2020

I tend not to visit stadiums more than once these days. It’s a combination of wanting to see somewhere new and of wanting to add to the number of grounds where I’ve attended a game. This weekend was an international weekend though and so my options were more limited than usual. So limited in fact that the only game in town looked to be at the Luzhniki Sports Camp where I’d watched Chertanovo drop three points at home to Alaniya six days previously.

However, even if I couldn’t tick off a new ground I still thought watching live football would be better than lazing around in my flat. To try and avoid it feeling like a repeat visit I booked myself a ticket on the other side of the ground. This meant that I’d be watching from the padded seats in the centre section of the main stand rather than standing in front of a seat that required me to view the game through two fences. My posher seat in Sector A2 cost me three hundred and thirty rubles which is three pounds thirty. Even at the higher price it struck me as being much better value than last week’s two hundred and twenty ruble ticket.

I also decided that I’d walk to the stadium along a different route, so rather than just heading out from my flat and following a reasonably direct route I took a taxi to the Kremlin with the intention of tracking the river all the way to the ground.

Red Square had fewer tourists than last time I’d been there. Most people were taking selfies with the historic buildings in the background, a just married couple were posing for wedding photos in front of the Borovitskaya Tower and a small queue had formed for those wanting to pay their respects in the Lenin Mausoleum.

I knew that if I made my way through the square past St Basil’s Cathedral I’d reach the river in another two or three hundred yards. All I had to do then was turn right, keep the river on my left and I’d eventually reach the Luzhniki Sports Camp.

Anyone who has read this blog before will know that such plans invariably don’t go as smoothly as I’d hope, but on this occasion it worked perfectly. I didn’t even have to check my location on my phone. I passed the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour with its golden onion bulb topped towers and the impressive Ministry of Defence building. On the other side of the river was a big statue of some seafaring fella.

The river water didn’t look particularly clear, but as there was the odd duck bobbing about it couldn’t have been too bad. It must have been good enough for fish to survive as there were a few fishermen trying their luck. I didn’t notice anyone catch anything but at one point I paused to watch a fella try to haul in what turned out to be a log that he’d snagged. I don’t think he appreciated the audience.

The river was busy with cruise trips, some of which didn’t have music blaring out, and so maybe at some point I’ll try one myself. The one downside of the walk was having to keep an eye out for electric scooters. They are easily and cheaply hired in Moscow and whilst there are walking and cycling lanes marked on the riverside path, the scooters would appear suddenly weaving from lane to lane.

The walk was definitely a city walk, with a busy road alongside me all the way to Luzhniki. Across the river I could see Gorky Park and if I end up paying a third visit to the Sports Camp I think I’ll walk along the opposite bank for the quieter surroundings.

I arrived at the Sports Camp two hours after setting off from the Kremlin and with a few minutes to spare to kick-off. Unfortunately, admission was via a gate on the opposite side of the ground and so I had to backtrack through the park, eventually reaching my back-row seat a minute after the game got underway. My late arrival inconvenienced the bloke at the end of my row who was videoing the match, presumably in some sort of official capacity. He had to move the tripod to let me by and so anything of note that happened in the second minute of the game will escape analysis.

My vantage point was much better than the previous week and my padded chair also had armrests. I was a little disappointed that it didn’t recline or have an automated cigar lighter. The seats around me were only partially occupied with at least every second one taped to signify that it wasn’t to be used although clusters of people, presumably from the same household, were sat together. I took advantage of a break in play for an injury and counted the fans in the opposite side of the ground. I made it ninety-four depending upon whether I’d correctly identified anyone stewarding. There were approximately six hundred seats in that side of the ground so that’s reasonable distancing in theory.

The fans on the far side included two singing clusters, both supporting Chertanovo and both tending to limit their repertoire to repeated renditions of “Shirta, Shirta”. Over on my side, to my left were ten or so away fans who didn’t really pipe up until the second half when we were treated to a snarly sort of chant loosely based on the tune to Yellow Submarine. Ringo sang it so much better.

Tekstilshchik, in red and black stripes, had the better chances in the first half including a free-kick from around thirty yards that was tipped over the bar by the home goalie with the top-knot. As with last week, there was a player booked for diving, although for what it’s worth I’d have given the pen. Diving in the box must be this season’s clampdown issue.

It was goalless at half-time and whilst I was tempted to wander around to the burger van on the other side of the stadium, I thought I’d disrupted video guy enough already. Three minutes after the restart the visitors took the lead.  Their tall striker with the beard did well to keep the ball in and pulled it back for someone else to stab it home from a yard out.

Beardy bloke might well have been the best player on the pitch. If he wasn’t he certainly believed that he was. In the latter stages of the game he formed a strike partnership of Ravanelli and Beck proportions with one of the subs. Beardy was quick to throw his hands up if the sub didn’t try to set him up or misplaced his pass whilst for his part the sub seemed to be constantly seeking the approval of his hirsute team mate. It was in vain as Beardy withheld his appreciation and avoided eye contact whenever the sub did anything that might be considered praiseworthy.

Despite their efforts Tekstilshchik failed to add to the earlier strike and Chertanovo were no more effective. The contest petered out with just the single away goal to separate the teams.