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.
Dmitry Kryukov travelled to the town of Yuryev-Polsky in Vladimir Region to document a lower league regional championship match.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
The photos were taken in the town of Yuryev-Polsky in Vladimir Region. It was a match in the second division of the Vladimir regional championship, which is around the 5th or 6th level overall. Although Vladimir Region has never had top teams, they have quite an interest for amateur sports (not only football) and they keep all their resources in good condition.
Yuryev-Polsky (more or less translated as 'Yuryev-on-the-field'), in comparison to nearby Pereslavl-Zalessky ('Pereslavl-beyond-the-woods') is probably the least visited town in the Golden Ring – the most famous Russian tourist route. It lies off the main roads. But it's nice, old-school, it has a small Kremlin with good museums inside, and most famously Georgievsky Sobor (St. George’s Cathedral), which was built in the 12th century, but strangely rebuilt in 14th without too much attention. As a result you can see elephants near local saints, angels as-if-eating flowers and other strange episodes. That makes the cathedral absolutely unique and a gem for Russian culture.
In this game the local team 'Opolye' won 2-1. The referee brigade was somehow famous at the local level. They definitely had the experience, and players treated them with respect Unfortunately the game was rather dull, they played mostly in midfield. Although it was a holiday (Victory Day), there was no advertising in the town; so only veterans and players’ friends came to the stadium. In the first half both coaches stood together and discussed problems they have while coaching. In second half they went to each other's side.
There was also a legendary PAZ bus for the visiting team 'Rubin' (Ruby) from Balakirevo. PAZ buses somehow have become the most numerous buses in Russian provinces since 1960. They are not comfortable at all, but they rarely break down and can drive through any road. They will be missed as a cultural symbol.
What does this football represent about modern Russia?
I wanted to show that Russian football is still alive, although it often loses attention from the audience in competition with Real Madrid, Manchester United or CSKA Moscow. We need to revive the idea to 'Support your local team' - there are players in every small village, but there is a serious lack of audience. The organisation at that level is not bad (games start on time, scores are put on websites), but the marketing level is rather sad.
Hockey and volleyball amateur games are much more interesting, because they guarantee some fun to the spectator. In local football you can easily face a dull game.
What is the future of Russian football?
But football is played everywhere, of course. There are a lot of tournaments and possibilities for those who want to play - on grass, on snow, and indoors. What we lack to become competitive on international level is a kind of system like in Germany, when you involve progressive ideas into youth coaching, provide possibilities for talented kids, and make the whole system more modern. They did it with building the stadiums for the World Cup - I hope they will think about the amateur and youth sports later.