Gears of Old Left in the Cold: Moscow Soccer Team’s Logo Torpedoed by Police

Torpedo Moscow’s Symbol Under Torpedo Fire. // Credit: Wikipedia

Russian police have decided that second-division Torpedo Moscow’s 82 year-old logo is no longer acceptable for public consumption – which may be a bitter pill to swallow for fans of the old Moscow team.

The logo, shows a stylized “T” with the words “1930” written in the bottom in the foreground.

The background is the issue. The T covers a light gray mechanical gear and a darker gray torpedo-like car. City of Moscow police believe the gear resembles an old Nazi symbol where a gear held a swastika. Fans are upset, and there is a distinct possibility that Torpedo Moscow may have drawn attention to itself with a riot (not a Pussy Riot…just a normal riot) with intra-city Dynamo Moscow during a Russian Cup game in late September.

This is backed up with a statement from Russia’s President of the Football Development Foundation, Alisher Aminov said in an interview with Russia Today:

“This increased attention by the police is caused by the recent fans’ misconduct at the Torpedo stadium, and nothing more.”

I think that in response to fan riots, police needed to find a scapegoat for the violence. Instead of choosing a person, a player, or a coach – they chose the team’s logo because the problems were started by fans and not the organization. Since fans are a reflection of the organization, changing the team’s full logo can hurt and punish the team.

Changing a logo changes the team’s identity, not to mention from a marketing standpoint – the team would have to create all new merchandise and destroy everything old. This would be a special case because old merchandise would not be seen as “throwback,” it would be simply disallowed by Moscow police because of its connection to fan riots, or in their eyes, a connection to Nazi Germany.

There are strange things going on in Russia and I’ll let you decide for yourself whether or not the logo is similar to the old Nazi symbol.

Torpedo Moscow vs. Nazi Gear Symbol. // Credit: Forum


Resignations about David Blatt’s Resignation

Today, seven years of American influence on Russian basketball ended with the resignation of David Blatt.

Now you might be confused as to why Russia’s national team basketball coach is a guy called David Blatt, and you have good reason. Blatt doesn’t look like a “-ski” or a “-ov” last name, so why is he coaching the Russians? It’s very well known that Russians love well…Russians, and this American’s exit from the job could close down not only relations between the NBA and the Russian League (after all there are only three Russian players in the NBA, and one Russian owner, Mikhail Prokhorov – who recently said he will be focusing less on business and basketball and more on politics).

Reaction on Twitter is one of sadness:

Reaction to David Blatt’s Resignation

Despite not being Russian, and even worse – he’s Jewish! (Russia is notoriously anti-semetic) Blatt had a lot of success and respect within the Russian basketball community. He led the Russians to a Gold Medal at the 2007 Eurobasket Tournament, and a Bronze in the 2011 Olympics.

Blatt will stay as full time coach of Israeli League power Maccabi Tel Aviv, but Russia now has only 3 and a half years until the next Olympic games and no coach. They lost a true professional, and his influence in Russian basketball will be missed.



Expectations of Russian Basketball Players

With the Russian Premier League focusing its attention to international play lately, another topic of discussion and contention in Russian sport is the accumulation of Russian basketball players to the NBA.

The NBA is not only clearly the best basketball league in the world, but it has also been fairly cruel to Russian basketball players. Although the Soviet Union was a basketball power (Golds in the 1972 and 1988 Olympics), much of this was due to the success of Lithuanian players (especially in 1988, Arvydas Sabonis, who went on to have a successful career with the Blazers). When the Soviet Union broke up, Russia stopped having success in basketball and has been an afterthought in the sport since the Dream Team Era began.

The NBA season begins soon, and on the Minnesota Timberwolves roster will most likely be Alexey Shved – a Russian. If he makes the team, he would be just the 3rd Russian player currently in the NBA alongside Andrei Kirilenko and Timofey Mozgov. Unfortunately for Russia, neither of the previously mentioned two have the best reputation. On the court, Kirilenko was a great player, but his career is now waning. Off the court he is known for the deal his wife made with him – Kirilenko is allowed to cheat on her once a year.

Timofey Mozgov has never had any problems off the court, but on the court he is best recognized for being dunked on by Blake Griffin.

Timofey Mosgov Gets Dunked on

Some bloggers even make fun of the 7 Foot 1 Center for his softness on the court and he is nicknamed “Tina-Fey Mozgov.”

Shved has a long way to go to become the kind of player Kirilenko was, but he did score 15 in a pre-season win a few days ago.

On Twitter, reaction to Shved has been positive so far.


One of the reasons that many people don’t trust Russian players to do well is Pavel Podkolzin, a 7 foot 5 center drafted in the first round of the NBA draft – just the second Russian drafted in the 1st round (after Kirilenko). Podkolzin never made an impact in the NBA and now plays in Russia.

Shved is a different player. Russians internationally are known to be big men who play the low post, but are slow and plodding. Shved is a shooter, and if he can have success in the NBA, it could open doors for a different breed of Russian player.



Zenit’s Free-Spending Ways Disturb Star and St. Petersburg

Credit: Getty Images

The top story in Russian soccer all season will be how Zenit will use expensive signings Hulk and Axel Witsel, and within the first few weeks of the two are inadvertently causing problems.

Each of the two players were bought for 40 million euro, a price that well exceeds the team’s two incumbent stars: Igor Denisov and Alexander Kerzhakov. Denisov, who is also the captain of Russia’s national team has declined to play for Zenit and has been sent down to the reserve team due to a contact dispute. Kerzhakov briefly joined him, also upset with the terms of his own contract – possibly also in reaction to the Hulk and Witsel signings. The difference between the two is that Kerzhakov quickly apologized and re-joined Zenit for their match against Lokomotiv Moskva. Denisov refused to budge and played with the reserves this past week while his team struggled to a 1-1 draw against underdog Loko.


This reminds me of an old adage my Kindergarten teacher used to tell us:

Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.

Between the two, Denisov and Kerzhakov have made nearly 500 appearances for Zenit, while Zenit has yet to win a match with either Hulk or Witsel in the lineup.

The stand-off with Denisov is especially interesting, because he is the team’s first vice-captain, and has spent his whole career with Zenit. After Denisov walked off during the teams match against Krilya Sovetov, the team issued this statement:

 “The decision to send Igor Denisov to the youth team for an indefinite period … is connected to the fact that the player issued an ultimatum, refusing to take to the field against Krylya Sovetov after demanding a renegotiation of his contract,” the statement read.

“His salary is one of the highest not just at Zenit but in the whole of Russia,” it continued. “Zenit believe that in breaking his agreement with the club, Denisov is behaving in an unprofessional manner, discrediting himself as a player for both club and country and causing serious harm to his reputation.”

Instead of working the matter out internally, Denisov replied to the team:

Asked what demands he had made which had caused the standoff with the club’s management, Denisov said: “The proper organisation of the team. And respect for the Russian players which Zenit has always relied upon.” Clearly, these words are the product of a conservative mindset.

Denisov is essentially charging Zenit with overlooking the “old gold” guard of Russian players that have led the team to many championships in favor of two new foreigners whose only connection to Russia is defined by their new soccer contracts.

Adding to the intrigue of the situation, police found a home-made bomb with a picture of Hulk’s face taped to it and a note that read “There is no Hulk.” This situation has clearly not only caused unrest within the top team in Russian soccer, but among the citizens of St. Petersburg.

Zenit has an upcoming match with AC Milan in the Champions League. Their first game in the Champions League was a complete disaster and 3-0 loss to Malaga, a team they were supposed to beat. Axel Witsel, who has been out with a minor leg issue, should be back for the contest. Hulk is expected to play, as is Alexander Kerzhakov. It will be interesting to see whether or not Igor Denisov decides to play, and if he does – will his heart be in it.

Zenit is currently sitting on a three game winless streak in the Russian Premier League, and a four game winless streak counting its Champions League loss. They need to get things figured out quickly, or a season that was supposed to be a landmark in Zenit’s history will turn out to be a failure.




Why Can’t We All Get Along: Racism in Russian Soccer

Last week, Brian Bondus and I talked about the biggest move in Russian Football: Zenit St. Petersburg’s expensive signings of Hulk and Axel Witsel.

Premier League Primer

Zenit Spending

These signings are obviously important because these are two of the top players in the world coming to play in Russia, but another reason it is important: they are not white. Zenit has a history of racism according not only to former CSKA Striker and rival Vagner Love (who is a dark-skinned Brazilian), but also from their former coach Dick Advocaat.

“In Russia similar things happened two or three times,” Vagner Love told the Brazilian daily Globo Esporte. “It was always during the matches against Zenit, which is the most racist team in Russia. … It’s their way.”

Their former coach Dick Advocaat once admitted that the club’s core fans prevented him from signing players based on their skin color. (via/

Advocaat is no longer the coach, and Zenit seems to have welcomed stars Hulk (who is Brazilian) and Axel Witsel (half-Martiniquais, half-Belgian). If you look at Zenit’s recent sucess, they have done so with minimal help from foreign players. The closest Zenit have had to non-white players are the Portuguese Bruno Alves and Danny. People from Portugal are generally considered to be white Europeans, so this fits in Zenit’s profile. Zenit aside, Russia has recently been known for racism against Latin and black players.

Some fairly recent examples:

August 2010: Peter Odemwingie, an Uzbek player of Nigerian origin was traded to English side West Bromwich Albion. In response, his former team Lokomotiv Moskva put up banners with bananas drawn on them thanking West Brom for taking Odemwingie.

March 2011 and June 2011: Brazilian Roberto Carlos of Anzhi was holding a flag in a pre-game ceremony when a banana was thrown at him at Zenit. Later in June, Krylia Sovetov fans threw another banana in front of Carlos during play.

March 2012: Lokomotiv fans threw a banana on the field at Congolese player Christopher Samba of Anzhi.

This is not limited to Russia, as Spanish and Italian fans are also known for blatant racist displays against non-white players. Many of this is detailed in a great ESPN story about soccer racism. Part of the story talks about how there has not been a civil rights movement in Europe like the one in the United States. This is especially true of Russia, which is only a 21-year old country after the fall of the Soviet Union. According to ESPN, many of this is because of the lack of non-whites in many countries in Europe, especially in Russia. Those who are non-white can be abused in many of those countries.

Personally, being American and being here for 16 years (as opposed to the first 5 years in Russia/Ukraine) I can’t relate to racism in Russian soccer. I don’t see racism in sport or soccer here in the U.S. Black players are not only accepted as much as white players here, but they are also well-liked. French star Thierry Henry – part of the ESPN video – has been well received in New York after suffering years of monkey chants and thrown bananas in Europe. To me, it’s disgusting and unacceptable in sport.

Hopefully Zenit’s signing of two non-white players shows the management putting its foot down on a history of racism. We have the whole season to see if Zenit fans will continue to abuse players from other teams (especially Anzhi, who has several black players including Cameroonian superstar Samuel Eto’o) while cheering on their own Hulk and Witsel. Also interesting will be to see if Zenit gets a taste of its own medicine when they go to places like Lokomotiv or Samara where racism has previously occurred.




Russian Premier League Primer

Champions: Zenit (via Yahoo! Sports)

    The largely popular video game FIFA Soccer comes out soon and the demo for the game drops today. Now, why am I talking about a video game? The sales from the game broke records for fastest and best-selling sports video game of all-time. FIFA broke sales records last year set by the ultra-popular Madden and NCAA Football. This is especially impressive because in the U.S. the main connoisseurs of sports video games are young males – which in America are forced to watch almost exclusively football highlights during the fall (American football, that is) on sports shows.

            So what does mean and what am I talking about? I’m saying that soccer is penetrating young American sports society, which is exciting for the U.S. to finally join the rest of the world in enjoying the sport. For those in the U.S. who are familiar with European football, many people can recognize players and teams from the top leagues such as the English Premier League, La Liga (Spain), Seria A (Italy), the Bundesliga (Germany) and Ligue 1 (France). These are the top 5 leagues in the world according to the UEFA coefficient (a mathematical formula that ranks soccer teams and leagues based on on-the-field success).

My job is to introduce you to the culture and trends of football in another major European country: Russia. This Russian Premier League introduction will briefly prime you on top teams and players, along with the trends going on in Russian football.

Here are the contending teams:

Zenit St. Petersburg – St. Petersburg

Zenit is the 2-time defending Russian champ and one of the richest teams in all of Euro football. Zenit flexed its muscles by just spending 80 million Euro on Brazilian star Hulk and young Belgian star Axel Witsel. Zenit is in the Champions League and believe they have what it takes to win the Champions League within the next few years.

Star Players: Hulk , ST (Brazil). Danny, MF (Portugal). Alexander Kerzhakov, ST (Russia).

CSKA Moskva – Moscow

CSKA is historically the Russian Red Army team in all sports. After a Top 16 showing in Champions League last year, CSKA qualified only for Europa League this season and has already been knocked out by AIK (a Swedish team). CSKA is known for its strong offensive play and the leadership of its goalie Igor Akinfeev and Russian hero defender Sergei Ignashevich. CSKA did not spend much money this year, and could possibly be passed up by richer team Anzhi Makhachkala if they are not careful.

Star Players: Igor Akinfeev, GK (Russia). Seydou Doumbia ST, (Cote D’Ivore). Keisuke Honda, MF (Japan). Sergei Ignashevich, DF (Russia).

Anzhi Makhachkala – Makhachkala

No one had ever heard of Anzhi Makhachkala when they signed Cameroonian superstar Samuel Eto’o away from Champions League winner Inter Milan a year ago. After years of complete oblivion, people actually know who Anzhi is and recognize several players on what used to be a completely unknown team. Anzhi was bought buy natural gas billionaire Suleyman Kerimov and quickly vaulted into contention. The team is filled with international players from Brazil, Morocco, and a couple more Africans. Anzhi is considered the richest team in the Russian premier league and will compete in the Europa League this season.

Star Players: Samuel Eto’o, ST (Cameroon), Mbark Boussoufa, MF (Morocco), Yuri Zhirkov, MF (Russia).

Spartak Moskva – Moscow

Spartak made a splash a few years ago with the signing of Irish player Aiden McGeady to their already international front line of Brazilians Welliton and Ari. Spartak has hung around near the top of the RPL, but has yet to top Zenit in the past couple of years. Spartak is again near the top of the RPL this season, but has already been blown out by Zenit. Some things seem to never change. Spartak is currently competing in the Champions league, but are in the same group as powerhouse Barcelona.

Star Players: Aiden McGeady, MF (Ireland), Welliton, ST (Brazil), Dmitri Kombarov, MF (Russia)

Rubin Kazan – Kazan

Kazan was top dog as recently as 2007-2008, but finished a disappointing 6th last season, but qualified for Europa with a big win the Russian Cup. The team has been passed up by free-spending Anzhi Makhachkala and still has to compete Zenit and the two tough Moscow teams. Kazan has a shot to prove itself in Europa, but will face Inter Milan in its grouping.

Star Players: Gokhan Tore, MF (Turkey). Gokdeniz Kardeniz, MF (Turkey). Obafemi Martins, ST (Nigeria).

Lokomotiv Moskva – Moscow

The third Moscow team is often forgotten behind oft-champions Spartak and CSKA, but Lokomotiv has a solid team and some interesting players. “Loko” has young up-and-coming Brazilian striker Maicon and can pair him with new signing Roman Pavlyuchenko, a former star for Tottenham. Loko also boasts Brazilian keeper Guilherme and new veteran Croatian defender Vedran Corluka. Corluka joins Roman Shishkin to form a solid defense for Loko. Loko is sticking around the top 5 and has a shot to make Europa this year.

Star Players: Vedran Corluka, DF (Croatia), Roman Pavlyuchenko, ST (Russia), Felipe Caicedo, ST (Ecuador).

With every blog post, there will be an update of the Russian Table:

Table courtesy and @ESPNFC

Zenit 7 5 1 1 13 16
Terek Grozny 7 5 1 1 1 16
CSKA Moscow 7 5 0 2 5 15
Anzhi Makhac 7 4 2 1 4 14
Loko Moscow 7 4 1 2 3 13
Kuban Krasno 7 4 0 3 4 12
Rubin Kazan 7 4 0 3 3 12
Spart Moscow 7 4 0 3 0 12
Amkar 7 2 3 2 1 9
Alania Vladi 7 2 2 3 1 8
Krasnodar 7 2 2 3 0 8
Kryliya Sove 7 2 1 4 -6 7
Rostov 7 1 3 3 -3 6
Mordovia Saransk 7 1 1 5 -7 4
Volga Nizhny 7 1 1 5 -9 4
Din Moscow 7 1 0 6 -10 3