120 years ago this month, on 24th October 1897, the first football match to take place on Russian soil was held in St Petersburg. It was a local derby between the football players’ circle of the Vasileostrovski district and the sports amateurs’ circle of St Petersburg. Vasileostrovski thrashed their opponents 6-0, but far from putting the losers off, it only spurred them on.
On 19 January 1912, the all-Russian Football Union was set up, taking on the role of the first official football governing body in the country, and in June of the same year they joined FIFA. In their first international match against neighbours Finland during that year’s Summer Olympics in Stockholm, they were beaten 2-1. Worse was to come the day after, where the game played in what was referred to as the consolation tournament ended with a 16-0 hounding from Germany. Some consolation!
Yet despite such an inauspicious start, the game proved popular. Sadly, World War One and the Russian Revolution meant that it wasn’t all plain sailing from then on. But after a shaky start, football’s place as a key element of Russian leisure time was assured. The first official RSFSR football championship was held in July 1920 with the first USSR football championship being staged a little over three years later. The USSR national team played its first international game against Turkey in November 1924 and enjoyed a 3-0 win.
It was time to provide a decent ground for the players and in 1928, Moscow’s Dynamo Stadium was inaugurated, complying with international standards.
After seeing years of action both as the national team’s venue and also as the regular home for Dynamo Moscow, it closed in 2008. The local team moved to their new home at Arena Khimki on the outskirts of the capital. Two years later, FIFA awarded Russia the right to host 2018’s World Cup.
Preparations are well underway in Russia in making sure that all the venues are ready. Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium gets a facelift, for example, while brand new venues are taking shape in Nizhny Novgorod, Kaliningrad and Rostov-on-Don as well as elsewhere in the country. Sochi’s Fisht Olympic Stadium will again be an integral part of the action at this major sporting event. Abroad, places in this prestigious competition have been hotly contested, especially so in South America where the battle for the third and fourth qualifying places was as tight as it’s ever been.
The contest is shaping up to be a thrilling one. Demand for flights, accommodation, and of course those all-important tickets, is expected to be high, so why not confirm your spot now? Uncertainty removed, you can savour the build up as the last remaining teams battle it out for their right to compete. How about you let us help you with your travel arrangements, leaving you to enjoy the beautiful game?