Unravelling the enigma of football in the post-Soviet republics
С Новым Годом! (Happy New Year!)
NMTB doesn’t like this winter break lark the FSU’s currently got going on.
There’s a distinct lack of football, it’s far too cold AND you to have to celebrate Christmas all over again on January 7.
It’s also the time of year when some berk suggests everyone goes walrusing.
That’s not the Russian equivalent of dogging, by the way. Essentially it’s a few people getting together in the woods, stripping naked, then splashing about in an icy pool before frolicking in the snow and drinking vodka for a bit.
(Actually, that description makes it sound EXACTLY like the Russian equivalent of dogging).
So while we’re on this brief hiatus, NMTB may as well proffer you a review of the past year; it’s one way of filling the gaping void of no football the blog is staring into.
The we-don’t-give-a-toss-about-the-fans award: Megasport Depot/FK Almaty (Lokomotiv Astana), Kazakhstan
This pair of weasels from Kazakhstan’s largest city not only dropped a massive turd on their supporters by announcing in January they’d merged, but then proceeded to rub it in their faces like some giant s**t pie by moving 600 miles away to Astana.
Even with a bucketload of cash Lokomotiv failed to win the Premier League last year, so perhaps there is some justice in the world...
The Ryan Giggs I-don’t-play-in-friendlies prize: Vitalie Manaliu, Moldova
At one point it was the pinnacle of a player’s career to be selected for their national team, even if that national team was Moldova. Not anymore.
It’s slim pickings just attempting to cobble together a half-decent Moldovan squad today – any side that’s laboured to successive 0-0 draws with Luxembourg clearly has problems – so it’s no surprise some of the players have given up the ghost now.
Last summer’s friendly in Belarus failed to enthuse the fans, let alone the squad, some of whom didn’t even bother feigning injury to dodge the game.
Sergiu Laşcencov claimed he was too tired; Vitalie Bordeian didn’t offer a reason; and then there’s the Iskra-Stal Rîbniţa striker Vitalie Manaliu, who declared himself unavailable because the fixture clashed with a trip to the seaside he’d got booked.
It wasn’t as if the FMF sprung it on him at the last moment. NMTB’s pretty sure football associations arrange these some time in advance.
The Sven-Göran Eriksson I’m-not-here-for-the-money prize: Luis Felipe Scolari, Bunyodkor
Some people will do anything for money.
A 15-year-old NMTB once hurled a Müller Fruit Corner at a teacher for £5. Yes, the blog was an absolute s**t at school, and it’s no wonder it was expelled.
Thankfully World Cup winner Luis Felipe Scolari’s not at all like that, and it’s purely altruistic reasons that took him to Uzbekistan after Chelsea.
He’s aspiring to create a lasting dynasty in Central Asia with Bunyodkor. Who wouldn’t?
That £13 million-a-year contract means nothing to him; Big Phil’d do it for nothing if he could.
The Joe Stalin best moustache award: Valery Gazzaev, Dynamo Kyiv
It’s been nigh on impossible to switch on a television lately and not see some rotund twit with a cardboard moustache belting out that infuriating ditty in that Gocompare.com advert.
Whichever failed actor it is, and let’s face it, masquerading as an opera singer for an insurance company isn't exactly how he envisaged he career panning out, has a cracking facial appendage, although it pales in comparison to FSU legend Valery Gazzaev’s.
Maybe there’s an alternative career for the Dynamo Kyiv manager yet…
Worst stadium opening: Astana Arena, Kazakhstan
A flight to Kazakhstan is flipping expensive. It costs about the same price as it does to get to America – and people actually want to go there - so it isn't every day England visit.
The KFF couldn’t believe it when they were drawn in Kazakhstan’s World Cup qualifying group, what with a £150m national stadium due for christening and promptly pencilled in the Three Lions’ trip to showcase their 30,000-capacity behemoth to the world.
Shame nobody told the builders.
The Astana Arena experienced more delays than a Virgin Trains service and was due for completion well ahead of the Premier League’s season-opener way back in March, let alone England’s visit in June.
NMTB can only speculate what caused the hold-up that resulted in Fabio Capello’s team playing in Almaty, although the blog surmises it’s something to do with all those frivolous extras the stadium boasts, like that ridiculous helicopter landing pad for example.
Couldn’t they have just painted a massive yellow “H” in the car park?
How often is it going to get used, anyway?
But even with Wayne Rooney et al out of the picture, surely ultra-ambitious president Nursultan Nazarbayev had another A-lister up his sleeve?
After all, he has aspirations of his new capital becoming Asia’s finest city.
Except Nazarbayev didn’t. Plan B was a meaningless friendly between Lokomotiv Astana and the Kazakh under-21 side that had everyone thoroughly underwhelmed, including Pierluigi Collina who was brought in – possibly by helicopter – to officiate it and add an ounce of glitz to the occasion.
Conversely, to inaugurate the Donbass Arena in August, Shakhtar Donetsk managed to entice Beyoncé to prance about in a skimpy outfit...
The it-could-only-happen-in-Moldova prize: beach football takes off
Quite how, where and why beach football has taken off in landlocked Moldova amazes NMTB; they haven’t yet mastered ordinary football.
They’ve even formed the Moldovan Beach Football Federation.
That trumps even Olimpia Bălţi’s recent antics of launching a chimerical auction to win a place in the starting XI for one of the club’s European fixtures which may, or may not, be an elaborate PR stunt.
They once attempted an Ebbsfleet United-style fans’ ownership of the club (which also died on its *rse), so it’s not the first time they’ve tried something like this.
Even if it is a PR stunt, has anyone actually benefited from the modicum of interest it’s generated?
All that’s been achieved is an absolute hammering in the media, especially from Russia.
The X Factor we’ll-drag-this-out-for-as-long-as-we-can award: Kyrgyzstan’s Vysshaja Liga
NMTB would love to know which idiot dreamt up the new format for the Vysshaja Liga, and just how he managed to convince the FFKR it was a good idea.
What’s wrong with just playing each other home and away? That’s the accepted model pretty much the world over. And it works.
But some twerp reckons that to prove yourself a worthy champion in Kyrgyzstan you must go beyond that, and recommended to the FFKR that the top four – and there’s only nine in the entire division – should contest a mini-league upon completion of the regular season to decide where the title’s heading.
So after 16 games the quartet again faced each other twice.
But even that didn’t settle anything because Dordoi-Dynamo Naryn and Abdish-Ata Kant both finished the group level on points and goal difference, resulting in the FFKR hastily arranging ANOTHER play-off to resolve the championship.
Dordoi-Dynamo won that. As they had the original league – unbeaten and by eight points – making it all an incredibly pointless endeavour.
A bit like the Vysshaja Liga, really.
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