Posts Tagged ‘Russian Premier League’

CSKA Moscow v Rubin Kazan, Saturday 22nd August 2020, 8pm

August 29, 2020

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It’s not often that I go five months without getting to a game of football, but I suppose these aren’t typical times. The Russian football league continued for a further week after I’d attended a Spartak Moscow match in March, but even within that week the Covid situation had worsened and I’d cautiously stayed away from crowds.

Lock down in Moscow was taken seriously and in the three months that I worked remotely from my apartment the only time I was allowed to leave was for shopping trips to my nearest supermarket. It’s only fifty metres away and as I tried to minimize contact with others by limiting visits to twice a week, it did little to break the monotony.

Fortunately that supermarket was well-stocked and with little evidence of panic buying I was never in danger of having to wipe my arse with the curtains. Even so, there’s a much bigger supermarket a mile or so away that I’d have much preferred to shop at. They’ve got live carp at their fish counter which makes the outing much more interesting. I know eating carp is a big thing in eastern Europe but it still baffles me that they don’t go for trout instead. I ate carp in Kazakhstan a few years ago and it was ok, although the sauce it was served in masked any hint of the muddy taste that it’s renowned for. Maybe a week or so cleansing in a supermarket tank makes all the difference.

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Whilst lock down in Moscow is now over, there are still some lingering restrictions. It’s compulsory to wear masks and gloves in shops and on public transport and whilst almost all bars and restaurants have reopened again, most of them seem to be serving people outside at hastily constructed patio areas. Let’s see how that works out for them in December when it’s minus twenty.

Attendance at football has been adversely affected too. I can’t work out what the rules are but clubs are only allowed a small number of fans at each game. I’d assumed that the reduced capacities would limit attendance to those with season tickets and so hadn’t really been looking at opportunities for getting to a game. Old habits die hard though and when looking at the CSKA website the night before their Premier League fixture with Rubin Kazan I noticed that they were selling tickets. I was surprised that anything was available so close to the game as I’d have thought that CSKA would have had more than enough fans to sell out the limited capacity with or without a general sale.

That section of the website was Russian language only, but with the help of Google Translate I was able to navigate my way through to the final stage of purchasing a ticket only to be thwarted by what I later concluded to be a delay in processing my registration.

I had another go the next morning and this time it worked well. The spacing requirements meant that they were only selling every seventh seat and then only in alternate rows. That’s ideal for someone as anti-social as me and something that I’d be happy to see remain should the virus make itself scarce. I bought a ticket for five hundred rubles in the upper tier of the main stand. That works out at five quid which is slightly less than I’d pay for a ninth tier Northern League game back home. It is also, at the equivalent of two pints or so, exactly the amount that I think going to the match should cost.

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On Saturday evening I took a taxi to VEB Stadium. I could have used the subway, but I thought that a car journey where both the driver and I wore masks would be safer. He dropped me off outside the ground and as there was still an hour and a half to kick-off I had a wander around in the adjacent Berezovaya Roshcha park.

It was a pleasant enough place for a stroll, with some quiet trails through the trees and a couple of restaurants that in different circumstances would have been ideal for a pre- or post-match drink. A few supporters were making their way towards the stadium, many of them pre-gaming with a can or bottle of beer. There were also a few small groups of policemen, dressed as if they were expecting a riot. They had little interest in the fans with a beer, so I concluded that drinking a beer in a park wasn’t seen as sufficiently riotous to warrant intervention.

I headed inside with plenty of time to spare. First up was a check of the ticket and a reminder to put on my mask. I’d brought gloves with me but as disposable ones were being handed out I took a pair of theirs.

Once I’d passed through that first check point I didn’t see anyone wearing gloves and so they must have been discarded at the first bin. I then had to pass through a metal detector and undergo a frisking, before finally reaching the section 507 turnstile where my ticket was scanned and I was allowed to climb the stairs to the upper tier.

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The thirty-thousand capacity ground looked in good nick, not surprisingly really as it was only built four years ago. There’s a great big tower in one corner that resembles the UEFA cup, perhaps in tribute to CSKA’s win in 2005. In the final they had beaten Sporting Lisbon, the side that had knocked the Boro out earlier in the competition.

As all the food and drink kiosks were closed free bottles of water had been set out on tables. That was a very welcome gesture particularly after the four flights of stairs to the upper tier.

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When the teams were announced, visiting manager Leonid Slutskiy got a good reception from the home fans. It was well-deserved considering that he’d delivered a few trophies during his past seven-year stint in charge of CSKA. I doubt he’d be as warmly received at Hull if he ever went back there.

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The crowd spacing wasn’t quite as I’d imagined it from the ticket booking website, but there was still plenty of room in a crowd that I’d estimate to be around six thousand. I wore my mask throughout although not many others did. A significant number of people had removed their masks altogether, whilst most others chose to cover only their neck or chin. A young steward spent the game venturing into the crowd to ask that the masks be worn correctly but most people that she spoke to complied only for a few minutes before letting it slip down their face again. She put the effort in but as the evening wore on it increasingly resembled a game of Whac-A-Mole.

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The exception to the spacing was behind the goal at the opposite end, where the more hardcore fans largely abandoned social distancing, preferring to huddle together and protect themselves from the virus by removing their shirts instead.

CKSA were in a sort of sub-Barca kit with Kazan in green. I was pleased to see the visiting keeper in an all-black kit. It’s what I expect from a Russian goalie. That and a mullet. He spoiled the effect somewhat with orange gloves and boots, but they seem to be the fashion as at one point eleven of the players on the field were sporting orange footwear.

Both sides struggled to create anything in the first half. Most of the best opportunities came down the CSKA right when their wing back managed to get balls into the box. Ten minutes before the break Kazan midfielder Bakaev somehow found himself one on one with the home goalie and calmly stroked it past him for the opener. The lead didn’t last for long though as a couple of minutes later the ball fell to CSKA’s Vlasic on the edge of the box. The former Everton player volleyed it goalwards with the bounce taking it over the keeper’s arms.

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In the second half there were a few decent chances for both sides. CSKA looked to have won it in the final minutes only to be denied by a Monty-esque double save from the Kazan goalie. The failure to take that chance proved costly as in added time Kazan broke and substitute Makarov pinged the ball home from the edge of the box as casually as if he’d still been hitting the ball into an empty net at the half-time warm-up.

The home fans around me didn’t appear to be too disheartened at the late goal or the loss. Maybe, like me, they were just glad to be back.