Unravelling the enigma of football in the post-Soviet republics
Never Mind the Bolsheviks has a lot of time on its hands.
That's why the blog has spent this week poring over league tables past and present from across the former Soviet Union to pick out and poke fun at those sides who have been less than fortunate in the naming stakes.
Football teams in the USSR, like every other facet of life in the socialist worker’s paradise, were inextricably linked to some sort of state-run industry or club and spawned the generic Dynamo, Lokomotiv and Spartak monikers that litter leagues across the region.
Yet sometimes they get it wrong, very wrong, and chairmen bestow upon their sides a name that resembles something akin to a pub quiz team.
What’s wrong with just St. Petersburg City? (OK, it would be St. Petersburg Gorod in Russian, but you get the point.)
It’s been something of an arduous task compiling the list – simply because, quite frankly, the Communists were rubbish at giving their football clubs sensible names – and there are a few notable omissions from the top 10 NMTB has cobbled together. A top 50 could have been easily achieved.
Access Golden Grain Petropavlosk (Kazakhstan), Dinamo Bender (Moldova), Elektrik Plant Leningrad (Russia), Stalkers (Latvia) and Traktor Tashkent (Uzbekistan), hang your heads in collective shame.
You all boast some downright awful names, but can take solace in the fact that you’ve escaped a place in this blog’s chart.
Anyway, cue the music: here’s a rundown of the top 10…
10. Atlantas Klaipeda, LithuaniaThey don’t hail from the legendary island that sank into the sea, although the club did vanish without trace from Lithuanian football just as fast as Atlantis did from maps this year when sponsor Vladimir Romanov threw a strop and withdrew them and his other team, FBK Kaunas, from the top-flight not long before the season was due to commence. That’ll be more Lithuanian players on their way to Hearts, then.
9. Kapaz Ganja, AzerbaijanAlas, every stoner’s favourites are no more. Interest began to wane in the side from Azerbaijan’s second-largest city after a name change to the more sensible FK Gäncä a few years ago, and from then on it all went downhill. The club fell into financial disarray and withdrew from the Premier League in 2007, probably because men in Rasta hats stopped attending their games.
"One's not off to Azerbaijan" 7. Tallinn JK Eston Villa, EstoniaNMTB heads all the way down to the fifth tier of Estonian football to meet a side from the capital, Tallinn, that nicked Aston Villa’s name a few years ago. Sadly they haven’t shared the recent success of their Brummie equivalents and were tonked 10-0 in the first round of the Estonian Cup this year by the reserve side of those stalwarts of Baltic football Viljandi Tulevik. They won’t be meeting Aston Villa in Europe for a few years yet, NMTB would imagine.
6. Olimpia Bălți, MoldovaOK, it’s pronounced something like “Balz”, but then that isn’t really compatible with any Indian cuisine jokes you may have. Incidentally, when NMTB visited last year it was extremely disappointed with the dearth of curry houses in Moldova’s fourth-largest city; there wasn’t a popadom in sight. In fact, it was disappointed with pretty much everything in Bălţi, but then it is twinned with Kaesong in North Korea and has a name that translates as “swamp” in English, which gives readers an idea of what to expect should they inexplicably find themselves out that way.
5. Amkar Perm, RussiaThere aren’t enough perms in football anymore, not since Kevin Keegan and Terry McDermott hung their boots up. Wouldn’t it be great if Amkar had a strict transfer policy in place where they purchased solely players with perms, a bit like how Athletic Bilbao sign only Basques? Fabio Coloccini of Newcastle would be first on Amkar’s shopping list, although the Premier League is broadcast in Russia and if they’ve seen some of the performances he’s put in this season…
"Well, I did move to get into Europe"
The team were founded at the Perm Mineral Fertilisers factory 15 years ago and today play in Russia’s top flight. NMTB visited the city once to see its ice caves; they were rubbish, the factory would have probably been more interesting. And don’t be fooled into thinking the “Ice Hotel” is some quirky building constructed from ice and snow because it’s not, it’s an ugly edifice made from bricks and mortar.
4. Megasport Depot, KazakhstanFootball team or budget sports retailer from Droitwich that flogs dodgy shell-suits to chavs? Well now they are neither, after merging with their rivals FK Almaty, changing their name to Lokomotiv and relocating 600 miles away in Astana earlier this year, probably in embarrassment at being called Megasport Depot.
3. Happy End Camenca, MoldovaIt wasn’t such a happy end for the team from the breakaway republic of Transdniestr (see previous blog), who plummeted down the country’s football pyramid a few years ago into obscurity. They once went on a 13-game losing run in the Divizia Naţională that saw them ship 57 goals, including 10 in one game against Zimbru Chişinău. Crippled by goal difference, Happy End limped to the bottom of the table, desperately in search of a masseuse.
2. Kaisar Kyzylorda, KazakhstanNothing funny about Kaisar Kyzlorda? NMTB concurs. The Fearless isn’t a great name, but it’s their past incarnations that piqued the interest of this blog; they’ve played under various guises, all equally bad, including The Mechanics a while back. Indubitably their best (or worst) was The Land Reclamation Experts, which came about through a sponsorship deal a while back. NMTB didn’t unearth any evidence to suggest that they were adroit at the retrieval of any kind of property. They could have been though.
Just quite why Kaisar Kyzylorda’s crest features an antelope is a mystery to NMTB – it’s not really an animal automatically associated with fearlessness. They might want to try a snarling dog, or an eagle, or Stuart Pearce.
1. Sok Schastliviy Den Kant, KyrgyzstanDoth thy berets, comrades: the blog’s top spot goes to a rather sneaky outfit from Central Asia. NMTB spotted them, hiding, cowering in a corner in mortification behind its Kyrgyz name Sok Schastliviy Den. The erudite among you will already be sniggering at its English translation, but for the rest, the club from Kant has a name that means Happy Day Juice, making them surely the only team to be sponsored by a fruit drink.
Kant, incidentally, means “sugar” – popular with kids, less so with their wallet-wielding parents. That’s probably what put shoppers off buying Happy Day Juice in their local supermarkets which may, or may not, have been the reason why the club went bust. Not such a happy day for its fans, then. They may be gone, but the city still boasts a First Division, drinks name-based team in Abdish-Ata, who are sponsored by the local brewery.
So there it is, the top 10 worst named clubs from the former Soviet Union. Do you agree/disagree? Know a better one from the former USSR? Get in touch below and let NMTB know.
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I thought that you would like to know that Sok Schastliviy Den Kant recently has been renamed to Live Beer Kant www.sport.kg/.../40
How cool is that?
or Living Beer to be precisely
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