„Russische Schweine“ in Norwegen und warum Geschenke immer Geschmackssache sind und was das alles mit Fußball zu tun hat, weiß unser Mann in Moskau.

Trouble abroad but rewards at home for Stavropol youth team

A youth team from the southern Russian city of Stavropol have been treated to a heroes’ welcome on their return to Russia from a youth cup competition in Norway, despite having left the tournament in apparent disgrace.

The team of youngsters from the youth football club “Kosmos” were taking part in the annual Norway Cup, a tournament for teams made up of players up to the age of 14, which has been held annually in Oslo since 1972. During their match against the Norwegian “Herd” youth team, a fight broke out between the opposing players.

According to reports, the Kosmos goalkeeper received a red card in the second minute of the game and refused to leave the field. A fight then started after one of the players on the Norwegian team is alleged to have called the Kosmos team “Russian pigs.” The conflict between the two players is then said to have escalated into a mass brawl between the sides, forcing the Norwegian coach to withdraw his team to the dressing room, where he called the police.

Speaking to the Norwegian newspaper Sunnmorsposten, a parent of one of the Herd team players was quoted as saying that “the Russian players started to punch and kick our children. The referee went over to the Russian coach…and asked him to calm his team down, but he just shrugged his shoulders.”

For his part, Kosmos coach Boris Yesikov, who has been in the position for seventeen years, described the incident as “the usual youthful rough and tumble.” Yesikov went on to give a detailed account of the incident, saying: “they’re making a mountain out of a molehill. There were only two of ours and two of theirs fighting but, you know, in Norway they react as if some gangsters had turned up. The referee sent off our goalkeeper in the second minute – we don’t even know why. He caught the ball and went to kick it out of the penalty box when the players from the other team ran up and interfered with him. He moved as if to swing a fist at the opponent but stopped himself, and then the referee gave him the red.”

According to Yesikov, after 15 minutes of play, the referee gave a further Kosmos player a yellow card (punishable in this tournament by a 5-minute ‘sin bin’) and, at this point, a player from the Norwegian team shouted in English “Russian pigs” in the direction of the expelled player, leading the latter to react by attacking his tormentor. The brawl then spread as others got involved.

As a result of the incident, an independent jury fined Kosmos the equivalent of 15,000 rubles and banned them from participating in the tournament in the future.

Despite their ignominious exit from the competition, the players were given gifts and letters of support from the Stavropol city administration upon their return to Russia. Head of the city council, Andrei Dzhatdoev, praised the players’ “patriotic” reaction to the alleged insult, saying: “a real citizen and patriot is always ready to defend the honour and dignity of his city, region and state in a manly fashion,” adding that the youth team players had “refused to have their faces pushed into the dirt.”

Kosmos has been sending a youth team to compete in the Norway Cup every year for the past 18 years, with their representatives managing to win the competition three times. However, this appears to be the last time the team will have the chance to compete.

Ural fans give gifts, get creative

The Urals city of Yekaterinburg has a growing reputation as a centre for the arts, and it seems that the fans of its football team, Ural, are playing their part in the blossoming of culture in the city, as after the club launched a competition to create designs for a new line of football merchandise.

With apparently more than thirty fashion designers to be found among Ural’s fan base, the club set its fans the challenge of producing a new line of sporting goods, with a new football shirt the focus of the contest. According to local designer and competition judge Nikita Baranov, any new shirt should be “suitable for wearing both on and off the football pitch.” At the same time, Aleksei Mavrin, the head of the local trade investment partnership remained unconvinced by this goal, saying “a football shirt is for giving you confidence on the pitch, but you wouldn’t wear it to work.”

When asked his opinion on the new shirt designs, Ural goalkeeper Nikolai Zabolotniy had mixed views, saying “I like one or two of them. To be honest, I’m not really keen on the rest.”

Fans’ skills have not been limited to clothing design, however, as supporters also submitted musical numbers they had created with a view to becoming the new official club song. Opinions on the songs varied, with playing staff preferring a more hip hop-themed effort, the leading contender to emerge in voting on the club’s website was the song “Ural March,” although voting for the winner was still ongoing. As for Zabolotniy’s view on the song competition, like most players he was in favour of the former, saying “I like the first one best of course. I don’t quite understand what they’re singing about, but it sounds better.”

Nevertheless, even after this outburst of creativity Ural fans were not finished, as a group of fans turned up at the club’s training ground to present their new Zambian forward Chisamba Lungu with a hand-crafted balalaika.

Having voted the player the star of the team during the month of August, the fans presented the gift to make Lungu feel at home and to show him that they consider him to be a fellow countryman. Why a balalaika in particular? This was apparently in response to an old quote from Lungu where he said that, prior to moving to Russia, people warned him not to go there as “it’s cold and bears roam the streets playing on balalaikas.”

After receiving the gift and embracing the fans, Lungu apparently examined the instrument with interest and had a go at playing a couple of chords. Speaking about the presentation Lungu said “I’ve never tried to play the balalaika before. I play a little guitar but I’m seeing the balalaika for the first time. I know it’s the Russian national instrument. It’s a great honour that they’ve named me the best player and given me this special gift. I will learn to play it and, I hope, by the end of the year I will be able to show you something.”

Ural are currently sitting in 11th place in the Russian Premier League table on 5 points, having won just one of their opening six games. The club only returned to the top division in 2013, and their SKB-Bank Stadium is set to play host to World Cup matches in 2018.

Sources: (in Russian)