I gave my tickets to last Saturday’s Spartak Moscow – Zenit St. Petersburg showdown to a German friend and his colleague. They were mad to taste something local and, like the vast majority of “Western” residents, never had the chance or initiative to score tickets.
I’d an idea to take Timur, but since he’s a Lokomotivnik I figured best not to confuse the child. He’d already started supporting Mayo this August when I took him to Croker. He figured it was okay as they have the same colour shirts of Lokomotiv. Even when pointed out to him the difference between Gaelic Football and Soccer, he simply said “Football is football.” Hard to argue with a child’s logic.
As a result I watched the match in an “English” pub in Taganka with my other half and her sister, neither of them football fans. The pub had two games on, the Russian offering on three screens and the Chelsea-Newcastle match-up on a single TV. A bunch of Spartak “fans” gathered to drink in support of their club.
This struck me as odd given the number of free seats in the Otkritie Arena, especially those in the 300rb (4euro) category. Apparently being a real fan means drinking over-priced tasteless beers, each of which costs the same as a ticket to the stadium. The stadium, Russia’s newest, shiniest place for entertainment which is a distant 25 minutes on a direct metro line from the pub! It made Irish barstoolers look positively palatable.
If they were just there to enjoy the game I’d have understood. We all enjoy going to watch a game with our friends or colleagues, have a few drinks and have the craic. Aping their betters in the Otkritie Arena stands was what really dropped them down the humanity scale.
Each time, as soon as the chant became clear from Tushino (where the stadium is located), they joined in. “Dzyuba you pederast” rang out a few times. “Hulk you monkey.” “Hulk, nigger bitch.” “Bums, f__k off bums.” “Dzyuba you whore.”
A couple of foreigners who were taking in the BPL game got increasingly uncomfortable as it became clear that the drunken Spartak “Ultras” next to them punched tables, kicked chairs and aped what their peers did in North-West Moscow. I recognised two of the loudest “ultras” in the pub and they me. Account managers with Wrigley they take home over 200,000rbs a month, money didn’t buy them class.
The game itself veered from clueless chicken-heading to sublime skill, Hulk’s free-kick goal only lessened in quality due to the non-existent Spartak wall. 2-2 was a fair result, especially with the amount of blood, sweat and tears shed from both sets of players. Both clubs were fined identical amounts.
For their fans setting off flares/fireworks – 100.000rbs, throwing them – 200,000rbs, Spartak were fined for the abuse their fans meted out to Zenit’s players and their fans. Zenit got the same, except their 10,000rbs was for AVB not attending the press-conference. I’ll say no more.
And so to tonight, Timur’s beloved Lokomotiv were in action against Albanian Champions Skenderbeu. Being in Ireland meant I’d only be able to watch it online, though given the crap Moscow weather and the Indian October in Ireland, it was nice to be able to sit outside with a cup of Bewleys best tea and witness events unfold in Cherkizovo (where Loko’s stadium is).
Noticeable early on the home fans began chanting “Kosovo is Serbia”, which I first heard in April 2008 in Khimki. Under 300 fans, almost evenly split between hosts Sportakademiklub and visitors Volga Ulyanovsk, chanted this to each other for a few minutes before applauding their genius. Same again tonight, only the stakes and stage much higher.
It got worse, much worse. “Kill the Albanians”, the proud Russian patriots and true Lokomotiv fans chanted, with the commentator audibly groaning and telling there would be “problems”. The applause ringing out afterwards showed the fans didn’t give a damn. The reaction of a Loko official, “Idiotism, they shame us”, will remain only words.
Polish match delegate, Mikhail Listkevich, noted the behaviour warning of repercussions. Asked afterwards about the abuse from the stands, the Albanian coach Mirel Josa wouldn’t be drawn. “It’s a problem for UEFA,” he answered before going in to discuss how proud he was of his players and their efforts.
A really positive unbeaten week for Russian clubs in Europe ends on a low. CSKA Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg won in the Champions League; FC Krasnodar’s win over Qabala and Rubin Kazan’s solid 0-0 with Bordeaux in the Europa League, all will be overlooked once the continuing issue of fan behaviour further dirties the Russian bib. All at a time when, irony of ironies, Russia is the #1 country in the 2015-16 Euro Cups rating.
Lokomotiv’s hard-fought 2-0 win over Skenderbeu, might well end up a 0-3 loss, or UEFA might bottle it. Lokomotiv might play a game behind closed doors, but the problem remains and worsens.
If the cost of vile homophobic and racist abuse for one club’s fans is a paltry 10,000rbs (130euros), with nothing in place to tackle the festering issues of fan and club behaviour, it won’t change. As one caller said on our radio show on Monday, “10,000rbs, damn, it’s a quarter of my salary but I’ll pay it and the RFS can get lost.”
That he’s President of a regional fan group for Spartak Moscow was par for the course, he was defending his club. And nothing is going to change, because nothing is wrong.