Torpedo Moscow, in their latest incarnation, are a club with a whole heap of trouble. Fans warring with the owner, owner trying to placate investors, never-ending stream of bad media. One of the storied clubs of Russian football seems to want to curl up and die.
Last weekend’s violence in Tula was another blow against soccer in Russia. Coming hot on the heels of the idiocy in Podgorica, the Arsenal and Torpedo fans seemed eager to grab headlines with a flare and firecracker display which presaged a full on riot.
Concerns about the Tula pitch (which was more like the proverbial potato patch) were not even in the frame as social media lit up (pardon the pun) with photos of flares, fireworks and blood.
The decision to ban Torpedo fans makes little sense when massive questions were to be asked of the home side, the RFPL and the police. Despite the mistakes from the organisers and police, nobody can condone the mindless thuggery on display from both sides, the state of intoxication of fans nor the desire to show who had the smallest male members.
Both sets of fans were an embarrassment and heaped shame on both clubs. Yet for Torpedo, this is going to make it very hard to keep the club viable.
After years of instability, poor leadership, dodgy deals from the former Moscow Mayor and oligarchs looking to clean money while winning public favour, Torpedo at least looked like being a club to admire. Moving from their spiritual home of the rambling Streltsov Stadium in South-East Central Moscow to the suburban Ramenskoye stadium angered fans.
The funny business over planning and potential rape of the sports complex that Torpedo call home is something that rightly exercised fans and public alike. But any good will to be shown towards their plight rapidly disappeared with a stream of idiotic behaviour, self-righteous and inappropriate defensive statements and now this latest blunder.
With backers looking to distance themselves from an ever-increasing problem, even if the club should continue to steer clear of relegation, with no money and nobody interested in taking on so many problems, a new incarnation of Torpedo Moscow will be starting in the fourth tier of Russian football next season, if they’re lucky.
On Wednesday night I took my five-year-old son to the Lokomotiv-Torpedo Derby. I’d been a regular visitor to Cherkizovo when I first moved to Moscow and could see the stadium from my kitchen window.
Timur, my son, has been at football matches and sports events since he was a week old and the only difficult point was explaining to him that a) I was not playing, b) he could not take part, c) that we were ordinary fans and not backstage/pitchside and d) that he couldn’t go out and play on the pitch.
Once we had that sorted he enjoyed himself. He decided that he is now a “Lokomotivnik”, as Torpedo wear white, the same as Stormtroopers so they are part of the “Empire” (blame Lego Star Wars).
Apart from spending time with him, it was interesting to witness his reaction to the Loko Ultras. After only a minute’s play he asked “Why are they not watching the football?” For him it was strange for people to be directing songs and singing while the game went on.
While the fans chorus were very pleased with themselves for their coordinated singing, if they want to do such mindless, soulless nonsense they can join a choir. It drove home to me the complete absence of atmosphere – no ebb or flow in noise.
Now involvement in the game. Absolutely zero motivation for the players. What most of us grew up with in Ireland or the UK, we take for granted. Yes the “Fields of Athenry” gets the odd thousand hearings, and there are the obligatory club songs to warm up for the game, but there is an atmosphere.
Meanwhile the watching Torpedo fans, who were terribly messed around by Lokomotiv in the search for tickets (like everyone else they arrived at the ticket kiosks only to be told to go back to the metro station as there was a special kiosk for them).
The Loko stewards are excellent, the police and special security force (OMON) were disarmingly friendly – and apart from the usual few idiots throwing fireworks onto the pitch, it was pretty much without incident. I have to think that it was the really high quality Lokomotiv organisation and stewarding, coupled with pleasant policing that defused what could have been mayhem.
Now if only the fans could work on being supporters, it’d be a wonderful world!