Ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Goal Click has brought together photographers from across Russia for a special new project, Goal Click: Russia. These photographers documented the "real Russia" and Russian culture culture through football stories. From Yekaterinburg to Kazan, Volgagrad to Nizhny Novgorod.
Artem Sirotkin from Nizhny Novgorod looked at the two opposite sides of Russian football, from amateur football in Semenov to Russian championship football at the new World Cup stadium in Nizhny Novgorod.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
My photos show two opposite sides of football. On the one hand, an amateur football championship of the region in a small city away from Nizhny Novgorod, where the World Cup will be held, with a match between FC Semenov (Semenov) and Shakhtar (Arzamas). On the other hand, the match of the professional teams of the Russian championship at the new stadium, which was built for the World Cup, "Olympian" (Nizhny Novgorod) versus "Luch-Energia" (Vladivostok).
70 kilometres from Nizhny Novgorod is my native small city of Semenov. There, my native amateur team plays, in which I worked as a press attaché. I also documented my local team playing. Behind the pitch you can see the houses of ordinary inhabitants of the province - wooden houses and whole blocks of wooden homes. Behind the red-and-white building is the house in which I spent many years in my youth, which I left a long time ago.
Is there a specific person you shot that has a great story?
Between the cities of Semenov and Nizhny Novgorod are 70 kilometers and a whole abyss in football. There are times when you can get to the stadium of an amateur team, where football is watched by 100 people, but then the World Cup will have 42,000 fans present! I think this is an interesting story. In 2017, at a stadium in Semenov a young guy came to play as the goalkeeper, Nikolai Sysuev. And then a year later, he played at a huge stadium for a second division team in the Russian Championship. From a game watched by 100 people to a stadium with 42,000, where soon the best teams of the world will play! He played in this match at the stadium.
The number 10 player of our team (in white) is Philip Volchkevich. He is the most experienced player of our amateur team. He started his career in a professional club with the same coach who is now training FC Semenov. Now he is our striker, who loves football. Despite his employment (he works in a bank), he travels 70 kilometres three times a week by train to our city from Nizhny Novgorod for training and games.
What is your favourite shot?
I captured the last moment before entering the stands of the big stadium, where the World Cup will be held. You look at this photo and you understand - in ten steps you will forget about everything except football.
What does this football in Nizhny Novgorod represent about modern Russia?
Unfortunately, in Nizhny Novgorod the football is very bad. We have a strong regional championship among amateur teams, but there is no main professional team. I believe that this is because football is managed by people who do not understand it, they do not know how to manage it. For several years, several football clubs have been destroyed in the city. For them it's a way to make money, and probably this is an opportunity for corruption.
Previously there was a team called "Volga". In 2016, it was liquidated because of debts and an unwillingness to solve its problems. We once again spit in the soul and are insulted. Therefore, now I can only talk about football in Nizhny Novgorod negatively. Soon there is the World Cup, but in the city there is no big team. Why do we need a stadium? It's a shame.
What is the future of Russian football?
I think that Russian football will develop in parallel with world football. It is necessary to distinguish which football to keep in mind. The Russian team is now weak, but I think the next generation will show itself as they showed in 2008 at the European Championships. Our football clubs will receive new stadiums after the World Cup and this will give a chance for development. Our national championship will finally meet the European level. Amateur football in the regions will remain the same, as we love it now: sincere, tough, real!