Almost a game of one half

The free kick was taken, the away team began to build an attack … and play halted because the hosts were leaving the field. Back in Moscow’s amateur league the game between Timiryazevets and Sportakademklub at the Avtomobilist stadium threatened to be a game of one half.

Timiryazevets players make their case to the referee after a red card for Mirza Alborev (not pictured).

For much of the first half little was happening on the field, and the spectators were more preoccupied with their discussions about the likely destiny of the Premier League season: would CSKA win the title, and would Dynamo escape relegation. Sportakademklub took the lead with a good finish after about half an hour, but didn’t generate much of a response among the fans.

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Action as Timiryazevets (yellow) take on Sportakademklub in Moscow’s Amateur League.

At least, not until the referee got involved. A fairly innocuous-looking hissy fit around the halfway line escalated rapidly. Timiryazevets’ Mirza Alborov was shown a red card, a couple of yellows put in an appearance … and suddenly the home bench cleared. Sadly, it wasn’t the kind of bench-clearing brawl that excites the keepers of ice hockey mythology; it was simply that the host wanted to make a point to the officials by taking the ball home. With about 5 minutes to play until half time, the team just walked off.

timiryazavets walk-off
Timiryazevets players huddle just off the field of play, waiting for a decision about whether to continue the game.

A game of one half? Not quite. The walk-off never made it to the dressing room. Instead there was a bit of awkward hovering on the bend of the running track behind the goal and an animated discussion between the coaching staff and the men in black. The precise details of this were unclear and a suddenly very active security guard started officiously ushering everyone back into the roped off spectator area, too far to be able to hear anything. But the upshot was that Alborov remained in his early bath while his team-mates agreed to continue the game.

That didn’t do them much good – Sportakademklub eased to a 3-1 victory against 10 men, Alborov copped a three-game ban for aggressive behaviour – but it raised the afternoon above the humdrum.

avtomobilist stadium moscow 4
The Avtomobilist stadium, with the restored Soviet-era changing rooms in the background.

The Avtomobilist stadium is in a park just off Moscow’s Butyrsky Val street, an area of the city better known for a notorious prison and the only registry office (or wedding palace, in local parlance) authorised to conclude the nuptials for foreigners. A signpost announces that the name of the park was selected by residents in an online poll in 2013; given that the name means ‘motorist’, it’s not clear what the other choices might have been. As is often the case at this level, access to games is not really encouraged: information is limited, the playing area is fenced off and the spectator accommodation (a few seats on the far side of a running track) are also enclosed within another fence. Photography, according to the signs, is prohibited although the fussy security guard wasn’t bothered with enforcing that rule.

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A Sportakademklub forward (white, right) attempts an acrobatic effort on the Timiryazevets goal during the teams’ Moscow Amateur League encounter.

But even in these unpromising surroundings, with fairly limited facilities and none of the sense of occasion to be found at, for example, Prialit Reutov or the Spartakovets venue used by Solyaris, there’s something to see. The changing rooms are housed in an imposing Soviet era Dvorets Kultury (Palace of Culture, a kind of community centre usually built or sponsored by a local factory in the hope of persuading the workers to do something useful and vodka-free when allowed away from the production line). Since the fall of the USSR, these have suffered a variety of fates. Few have prospered. But this one looked to have been smartened up quite impressively to provide a home not just for Timiryazevets (the team takes its name from the relatively nearby botanical gardens and agricultural college dedicated to the great Russian botanist) but also for fellow amateur outfit Veles, who were due to play against Solyaris Juniors the next day.

Game details

Avtomobilist Stadium, Moscow, Russia

Moscow Amateur League, May 10, 2016

Timiryazevets 1 Sportakademklub 3

Att: about 25

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