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Rotor Volgograd

Submitted by on August 21, 2012 – 11:59 amNo Comment

As soon as me and a mate, under the influence of a few pints in our local, arrived at the idea of going on holiday to Russia and visiting Volgograd/Stalingrad, I knew I wanted to go and watch Rotor.

There are certain teams Manchester United have played in the past, where the name just sticks in your head. Kosice, Videoton, Honved etc. Rotor was one of those sides, but they stood out particularly due to Schmeichel scoring a goal against them.

Since the mid-nineties though, the team has fallen on hard times and they now play in a crumbling stadium in the lower leagues.

I couldn’t find any information about them in English, and being in Volgograd mid-week, had given up any hope of watching them play. I thought as a result, I’d have to watch Spartak in the rather soulless Moscow Olympic Stadium if wanted to experience anything of Russian football.

As luck would have it though, I happened to pass Volgograd’s ground and saw a poster advertising a match that night.
The ticket office was similar in style to many kiosks in Russia, meaning it was slot in a door, at such a low height, you have to practically get on your knees to see in.

The lady on the counter spoke no English, and my Russian was too limited to discuss ticket preferences in great detail. Fortunately the ground is now so dilapidated that options on where to sit are restricted anyway.

Tickets were very cheap. The woollen scarf, totally impractical in Volgograd’s hot summer climate, was more expensive at around 10 Euros. Nevertheless this was professional football at its least commercial.

The stall selling official merchandise was smaller than FC’s first stand. It stocked a tshirt, two types of scarf, a cheap replica of the home shirt and a pendant. That was it.
Likewise there are no refreshments on offer (or proper toilets!) in the ground.

You are allowed instead to bring in your own supplies. Old ladies sit outside the ground and sell nuts and sunflower seeds in little bags, whilst most people carry big bottles of Kvass (a low alcohol, bread/apple flavoured drink) in with them.

On entering the ground, the police checked my bag, bottle tops were to be discarded (just on the ground, not in a bin. Communism used to provide stringent street cleaners, and Russians have gotten lazy).

The policeman couldn’t thank me in English, but he gave me a smile and a friendly British military salute instead. Inside the concrete bowl of a stadium, many of the seats were broken or missing.

You ignored your seat number and just sat where you wanted to. A piece of newspaper is used to protect your backside from the dusty seat.

The fanscene was very mixed. Unlike the larger sides, where our image of their fans is mostly very vocal, muscle bound young men, Volgograd had everything from a small group of Ultras (all bucket hats, the extremely popular Russian trend of short swimshorts and running shoes) right through to whole families.

In England, some fans get rather snooty about families in grounds, thinking it spoils the atmosphere. Here though, it reminded me of FC United. Kids to grandparents, there for 90 minutes entertainment every week, and everyone being prepared to sing with little macho bullshit in between.

After the playing of the slightly Boney M-esque club song, everyone raised their scarves, and under the gaze of the Marmayev Monument, belted out the Russian national anthem.

After that the singing was constant with a mix of songs started by the Ultras in one corner of the ground, to random chants related to what was happening on the field.

Bizarrely Mexicans waves are also extremely popular. There is one fan, who everyone seemed to know, who would start them. This is all watched over carefully by a heavy police force who act as stewards. Their effectiveness was somewhat questionable, they only had truncheons and the women police officers had opted for open toed high-heels!).

The match was of limited quality, but quite entertaining all the same. The lad sat next to me, pointed out his mate (Number 18) in broken English and, as it so happened, he had a good game. Nevertheless the opponents, UFA FC, got the only goal of the game with a scrappy header.

The entire team rushed to celebrate with the 10 or so bare-chested fans, who had made the trip. Despite this, the Volgograd fans stayed and sang to the end of the match.

They didn’t seem to be so happy with the result though, chanting, dubiously, what sounded like “UFA Pederast” (UFA Paedophiles) as they left the ground and climbed back into their double parked cars or the ancient tram.

I also made my way back to the hotel, a pleasant climb up past the monuments of the Marmayev Kurgan and the eternal flame tribute to the fallen heroes of Stalingrad.

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