Football Programmes of the Soviet Union (5)

I don’t often begin with a dedication but perhaps, just this once……

“Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”

And certainly, when I started out, I never thought I would one day be writing Blog Post Number Six hundred threescore and six. Anyway……


Last time we were looking at some of the old Soviet football/soccer programmed that I still have.

The first programme today has “Uralmash Sverdlovsk” / “Уралмаш Свердловск” as the away team, but this time with “Stroityel Ashkhabad” / “Строитель Ашхабад”, as their hosts. You may remember from Blog Post 4 that “Uralmash” was a little like an acronym, where “Ural” referred to the range of mountains and “Mash” was short for “Mashina” , the Russian word for “car”. The two together referred to a car factory in Sverdlovsk, the main city of the Urals. Sverdlovsk is now called Ekaterinberg, just to add to the confusion:

“Stroitel Ashkhabad” /“Строитель Ашхабад” means “Ashkhabad Construction Workers”, although this particular team have previously been “Locomotiv Ashkhabad” / “Локомотив (railway workers) Ашхабад”  and “Колхощи (collective farm workers) Ашхабад”. How original, and different, those names were, compared to the modern “FK Köpetdag Aşgabat”. “Köpetdag” by the way, means “Many mountains”, presumably in the local language.

Ashkhabad, by the way, is the capital of Turkmenistan, which is to the north east of Iran, and certainly part of Asia. Just to puzzle everybody further, on this map, the cartographers have decided to label Iran the “Middle East”. I have no idea why.

Here are the team line ups:

The top two words mean “make-ups” and “of the teams”. In brackets, the next few words mean “about- possible- changes- listen…….“по радио” …… radio -before-the beginning…….. “матча”  of the match.

Russian is a very ancient language, of the same age and vintage as Latin or Ancient Greek. There are a surprisingly large number of Russian words which do not come from Latin, but which are close relations of the Latin words. ““по” / “po” is the same word as the Latin “per”, as in “per ardua ad astra” the motto of the RAF, “Through difficulties to the stars”. “Before the match” was “перед  матча” and the word “p-e-r-e-d” is our “pre” as in “prehistoric” or “premature”.

Notice how on this programme, there is a late change to the team so that Papuga doesn’t play at No 7 but instead he is replaced by what might be “Yegorshin” although it’s not particularly clear. But just think of the circumstances of that team change, made with Oleg Soloviev’s fountain pen. He is sitting in a seat at the Central Stadium in Sverdlovsk, the city to which, in 1941,  Stalin organised the  large scale removal of the Soviet Union’s industry, so that it was beyond the range of German bombers. For Oleg, it is Monday, October 9th 1967, just a few moments after 6 o’clock, when the team changes are announced. He is more than 3,000 miles away from where I, aged just 14, am still working away in school.

In a few hours’ time,  ground control at NASA will crash the American space probe, “Lunar Orbiter 3”, deliberately onto the Moon’s surface after eight months in orbit. In La Higuera, a village in Bolivia, in his cell, the prisoner has just a few hours left to live before Army Sergeant Mario Terán takes his semi-automatic rifle and shoots him nine times. His prisoner is a young doctor and revolutionary Marxist named Ché Guevara. And on Saturday, October 21 1967, the first ever national demonstration against the Vietnam war will take place in Washington.

Our penultimate  programme is a match which took place in what was then called Kuybyshev (Куйбышев) and is now called Samara. It is a city of 1.14 million residents, situated on the River Volga:

This football team is still in the Russian Premier Division and is still called “Krylia Sovetov” just as as it was in  those “Golden Days of Communism”. In Russian “Krylia Sovetov” is “Крылья Советов” and it means “Wings of the Soviets”, surely one of the most dramatic names in world football.

The away team, on the left, is from Zaporizhzhia (Запорожье) which is nowadays a city in south-eastern Ukraine., once the site of a big car factory and nowadays the largest nuclear power station in Europe. Here is their badge of today…….

The name of the team is “Металлург” or “Metallurg”, a reference to Zaporizhzhia’s factories during the Soviet era in which they produced steel, aluminium and many other products of heavy industry.

The last programme of the lot is another home game for “Кубань Краснодар” aka “Kuban Krasnodar”. If you remember, “Krasnodar”, the name of the city, means “gift of the Reds” and the Kuban was the local river. The opponents are “Терек Грозный” aka “Terek Grozniy”. Nowadays the team is called “FC Akhmat Grozny”. Back in 1969, the game was a seven o’clock evening game on Tuesday, June 17th 1969. Top left is the complete date, namely “Вторник 17 июня 1969 г ”  The “г” is short for “года” (“goda”) which means “of the year”.

Grozny is not really a place for a romantic weekend break. It is the capital of Chechnya, home of the Chechens, who are primarily of the Muslim faith. You can read about the wars here, the first of three wikipedia articles.

The new team, “FC Akhmat Grozny”, is now named after Akhmat Kadyrov who was the Chief Mufti of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in the 1990s. He changed sides in 2000 and became the President of the Chechen Republic. On May 9th 2004, he was assassinated by Chechen Islamists in Grozny.

Grozny is a place name, but in Russian it also means something. “Грозный” is an adjective meaning “terrible, formidable, redoubtable, menacing, threatening, stern or ferocious”. It can be applied to a look, a glance, a storm, a danger, or a tsar. “Иван” is “Ivan”  and I’m sure that you can work out which of the many Ivans was the tsar called “Иван Грозный”.

But what is a “Terek”? Well, it’s a river in the northern Caucasus. Here it flows through Vladikavkaz,  the old Tsarist fortress and garrison town, and nowadays, the home of the beautiful Mukhtarov Mosque:

To me though, the word “Terek” will always be associated with a rare bird in England, the Terek Sandpiper, a wader which always runs to the water’s edge to wash its food before it eats it. It is also one of the very few birds whose beak points upwards. Not many people know that.


Filed under Football, History, Literature, Personal, Politics, Russia

16 responses to “Football Programmes of the Soviet Union (5)

  1. What a lot of work has gone into this linguistically and historically fascinating post, John

    • Thank you very much, Derrick. To be honest, most of the details were already known to me, picked up in the years that I studied Russian, a language and culture that I very much enjoyed, although Mr Putin is doing his very utmost at the moment to cure me of any fondness I might have had for them.

  2. MrCloughie66

    We are presently on holiday in Antalaya, the many Russians in this hotel would love this article 😂

    Thank you John for all your interesting and varied pieces, I do enjoy reading them,

    Best regards/Simon

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. What a fascinating story. When I was in year 12 we studied Russian industrial world, and I will recall Sverdlovsk and the Uralic and the Donbas. But nothing about football. And the sandpiper is very similar to the Avocet which also has a recurved bill.

    • Indeed it is! There aren’t very many birds, though, with the upturned bill. I’ve just googled the phrase, and strangely enough, most of the answers are connected with people’s attempts to solve crossword clues. And you were so correct with your suggestion of “avocet” because that is the answer to virtually all of the crossword puzzle clues.

  4. I learned to love football when I was living in Brazil. I’ve never had the opportunity of watching a match with Russia or any of its former Soviet states. That your post on the Soviets and football should fall on the number of the beast is ominous.

    • I’ve only ever seen a couple of Russian club sides, Dynamo Moscow and Zenit Leningrad, nowadays Zenit St Petersburg. I have however, seen Santos play, although sadly Pele was not playing as he was 65 at the time. I have also seen the Brazilian international team play in a match when they beat Janaica.
      In that game, the stars were the Brazilian supporters, who were so different from us boring, white Englishmen. For them, carnival time seemed to have extended to the whole of life itself. They were seldom without a smile on thier faces and seemed to laugh or sing at the least provocation. Perhaps we Europeans take life too seriously!

  5. Pingback: Postcard for jfwknifton – Paol Soren

  6. Very, very interesting reading John. I love how you’ve pulled all the various pieces together using language as a link. Your knowledge of Russian must be amazing!

    • Not really. I really enjoyed Russian but it always pulled my overall marks down. In retropect I should have taken Latin where I alwayd got better mrks even if it was a lot more boring. The best I achieved was to be able to hold an everyday, ordinary conversation with somebody, but that was my limit. What I was trying to do in these blog posts, among others, was to show how the Russin alphabet actually has a big overlap with our alphabet, and that if you are told that “радио” menas radio, we can all work out which letter is which, Two are the same as English and the third is the letter “delta” whih most people will be familiar with.

  7. Wow, John, you packed this post with a lot of information! How hard you must have worked on this, researching as you go along to understand Russian and then you insert on what happened in other parts of the world on a certain day. Brilliant write!! Thank you!

    FYI …. I watch a YouTube channel called I_AM_PUMA and it is from Russia, spoken in Russia with at times subtitles in English. Fascinating not only to watch these videos but to also listen to the very complicated language called Russian. I’ve been trying to understand over time but man(!) they speak so fast and in such a strange way that I’ve yet to learn hardly a thing.

    • I’m so glad that you enjoyed my blog post, Amy. You will find it very difficult to understand spoken Russian, even with the subtitles. The language is extremely complex, and worst of all, it contains very few words which are related to the English meaning. If you have a language such as French, sometimes there will be two or three words based on the English in every sentence. In Russian you’re lucky if there’s even one.
      And one final exrtra difficulty. Once you get to forty or forty five years old, your brain no longer functions in a way that makes it possible to learn a foreign language. You may well be just wasting your time and it isn’t even your fault. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

      • I’m not wasting my time, John. I LOVE that YouTube channel for it is about a puma cat who when young was very ill and unable to live in the wild. These two incredible people, husband and wife, now own this puma and that is what this show is all about. This huge cat that belongs in a jungle, lives indoors and is as docile as a kitten. These people pour their hearts and love into taking care of him plus another wild cat that lives outside in another building other than their home. Fascinating to watch!!

      • It sounds really great, Amy. Overall, very few programmes with animals in them are a waste of time!

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